Ephesians 5:8 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”
Every proud parent has high expectations for his offspring. In the Disney movie The Lion King there is that scene in which the hero Simba is confronted by the ghost of his father Mufasa. Mufasa tells him that he is disappointed in him, because “You are more than what you have become.” The point is: Simba is living his life as a goof-off instead of assuming the responsibilities he should be performing as the rightful king. Perhaps your parents played on a sense of family-pride to get you to live up to their expectations. “A Jones doesn’t give up when things don’t go your way.” Or maybe you’ve seen parents try to blame the other side of the family tree when Junior started showing character flaws.
Our Lord also has high expectations of us when we become his children and members of his family by faith. But he doesn’t rely on New Age psychology, or guilt trips, or family pride to encourage us to reach toward his goals. He takes us back to his grace. He helps us understand who we are, what he has made us.
At one time you were darkness. For the Christians in the city of Ephesus, people who grew up Gentiles worshiping the ancient Greek and Roman gods, this had been their condition for the majority of their lives. They grew up worshiping the wrong god. They grew up learning to excuse or accept behaviors that were sinful and destructive. They grew up in fear, never certain that their gods cared for them now, or where they were going when they died.
For some of us, our time in darkness may have been relatively short. But all of us were once darkness, if only from birth to Baptism. Even now, the darkness lurks within. And so today, things that should be condemned and fill people with disgust or horror are insisted upon as rights. Filthy talk is called a sense of humor. Greed is called healthy ambition or a good work ethic. Self-righteous, self-promoting busybodies are described as pious or devout. God condemns it all as darkness.
And that is what we were. But now, Paul says, you are light in the Lord. Now the light of God’s love, and the light of God’s truth, is shining on us and shining in us. The light of God’s word has shown us that God is not some moody, vicious monster we must constantly pay off to make him like us. He is the God who freely gives. He freely gave his own Son in payment for our sins. He freely gives forgiveness no matter how great the sin, no matter how poor the sinner. He freely makes us his own children. He freely invites us to receive and enjoy all the blessings of our home with him. The light of such love and truth change the way everything looks to us. That light pierces into our own hearts, making them the home of our Savior and his light by faith.
That truth has highest importance for eternity. It means that after we die, we will rise again to live with God forever. We will ever bask in the beautiful, warming, joy-giving light of his love in heaven.
But it also means something for us right now, which is more to Paul’s point in these verses. You are light in the Lord. That light of God’s love and truth, light which showed you how all your sins were taken away and why God considers you holy and precious, that light also lives in you. You have something new that you didn’t have before. You have the power of God’s love in Christ living in you, a new source of life and strength, so that you can live as children of the light, starting today.