Living as Children of Light
Introduction- A little girl was reciting scripture in front of the entire church. The great crowd made her nervous and her mind went blank. In the front row, her mother was almost as nervous as her daughter. The mother gestured, moving her lips, trying to form the words to help the girl but it did no good. Finally, in desperation, the mother whispered the opening phrase of the memorized Scripture passage: ?I am the light of the world.? Immediately, the child?s face lit up and relaxed and a smile appeared on her face as she began with supreme confidence: ?My mother is light of the world!?
The passage the little girl was trying to remember is Jesus words in the Gospel of John 8:12. Jesus is the light of the world. When we are baptized in the Orthodox Church become children of God and therefore sons and daughters of the Light. In today?s epistle reading (Ephesians 5:8-19), St. Paul tells us to live as children of light (v.8). The implied message here is that baptism is not an automatic guarantee of becoming holy and perfect in God?s eyes. We must actively participate through our words, deeds, thoughts and feelings, in the citizenship of heaven. Just like being citizens of the United States does not guarantee that we will act like citizens (law abiding and patriotic), neither does being a baptized and/or chrismated Orthodox Christians guarantee that we will follow the commandments of God.
How can we actively participate in the life of God?s light? St. Paul gives us several instructions in the same epistle passage.
First, we must put forth effort. ?Try to find-out (discover) what is pleasing to the Lord (v.10).? In order to be physically fit, we must go to the gym or to the exercise equipment in our home, get on it and start running, jogging, and lifting. We must exert ourselves till we feel a little pain, we must sweat and breathe hard. We must feel a little tired afterwards. These are all signs of effort. Similarly, in order for our spirit and soul to be in sound condition, it takes an effort to do good, to do justice, to be honest and true (v.9).
Second, we must avoid sin. ?Do not take part in unfruitful works of darkness (v.11).? Avoiding sin also requires effort and purposeful action. We live in an imperfect and fallen world. Temptation and sin are all around us. Satan is constantly trying to trip us up. How do we know and identify sin in our life? A good general rule is that anything you would want to hide from someone else or a certain group of people is probably sinful. In other words, ask yourself: would you be ashamed and feel guilty if someone else saw what you are doing? Actions that are good, right and true, although we may not pridefully flaunt them, we would not be ashamed if other people witnessed us doing them. For most of us, avoiding sin means avoiding arguments, gossip, and lying. It also means avoiding stealing, theft and lustful actions.
Third, confess your sins. Once a sin is committed it should not remain hidden. ?Expose unfruitful works of darkness (v.11).? It is a sad reality, that most Orthodox Christians do not actively partake in the Sacrament of Holy Confession. We continue to hide our sins and carry the heavy burden of guilt and shame which only makes it more difficult for us to be good, righteous and honest. When we confess our sins, we allow the light of Christ to penetrate our heart, mind and soul. It?s like turning on the light in a squalid apartment and watching the mice and cockroaches flee. Once the light is on, the demons flee and we can begin to clean up the filth that they have left behind or the filth that attracted them in the first place. The scriptures and the church fathers would even say that once sin has been exposed to the light of Christ, that it then becomes light in the sense that we see it in a way that can help us and help others to avoid making the same mistake again.
Conclusion- by trying to please the Lord in following His commandments for life, by steering a clear path to avoid sin and temptation and by confessing our sins, we are fulfilling St. Paul?s other directives, ?to be careful how we live (v.15) and ?making the most of the time (v.16)? He also says, ?Do not be foolish? (v.17). A fool is someone who is careless and who wastes time. Finally, St. Paul exhorts us, ?Do not get drunk with wine?but be filled with the Spirit? (v.19). Of course he is referring to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the light of Christ. Drink up the Spirit and bathe in the light so that you may become perfectly sober and become once again a child of the Light. Amen.