A buzzword for the past decade or so, many uphold “transparency” as a virtue. How do you define virtue? It is not merely the opposite of vice. And are vices bad? Or do they merely hinder you from being completely good, and perhaps vices are not all that bad?
God, Light, and Transparency.
Some things in this world we WANT to redeem for His purposes, but He wants us to put them off, walk away from them, even expose them as evil. He redeems us, but not all earthly desires or attitudes or practices can be redeemed for His glory. We reflect His light, but the darkness does not. He chases away the darkness. Sometimes we need to admit a thought, feeling or action stems from the darkness–and we put it off rather than “redeeming” it.
These questions, of whether transparency is a virtue to be sought out by Christians, or whether vices are truly bad, are addressed in Ephesians 5 (and many other passages, but we shall only be looking briefly at Ephesians here). I propose that in the end we will see that some things cannot be gloried in; and transparency is only virtuous so long as I’m pointing away from myself toward the Cross and making my boast in Christ alone–boasting in the power He exerts in changing me, sanctifying me, even now.
Ephesians 5 teaches us that as Christians we are children of Light, we start below in verse 6. We are to be so saturated in the WORD (in His truth, goodness and righteousness) that it shapes all our reactions in this dark world. Even in the midst of days when “I don’t have it all together.” I cling to Jesus even then, I believe His promises even then, my hope is secure even then.
Vs. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words…vain words, empty worthless words, empty vain words that assure you that (for example) this covetousness is not so bad, worthless words that convince you that God used to hate immorality, but now he understands that you did it in “love” so its ok…empty words that attempt to tell us sins are not sins anymore. Empty, cheap grace (thank you Bonhoeffer for this teaching) that tells us we are sinners and that is how it ought to be, no worries. Words contrary to Scripture, (which is the only revealed WORD). We live in an age that is full of empty words. Vs. 7 warns us not to partake of fellowship with those who try to bring their empty words with them. Many NT passages are devoted to this very thing–protecting the purity of the church, keeping the teaching and worship in line with Scripture alone.
Goodness, Righteousness, Truth
Vs 9…the fruit of the Light is not the same as the list in Galatians of “fruit of the Spirit”. The fruit of the Light is the fruit of knowing God, of His truth abiding in us, and our abiding in His Word, and His Spirit of Truth leading and guiding us. It is Goodness: deeds that are useful, helpful, generous and kind. It is Righteousness: behavior conformed to the character of God (the righteousness that comes through faith! Philippians 3). It is Truth: revealed, spoken, in His Word, illumined to us by the Spirit, eternal and unchanging.
Vs 10 Beloved, we learn by abiding in His Word, not by experimentation. (Romans 12:2). We reflect His light not by transparently allowing the world to see all our sins and struggles, but by presenting alongside our “mess” our Redeemer, our Rescuer, our Rock. We do not boast in, or identify as “our struggle with darkness.” Darkness cannot comprehend Light, we seek to be in His Light and to know Him. We trust Him to be transforming us; and as He does we happily let go of the old badge of honor “messed up person” and accept who He is making us to be.
Disciples of Christ, children of Light, will be proving what is good, what is His will, what is good, true, righteous. We “prove” by putting it on display, or as Jesus once taught His disciples–allowing others to see your good deeds that they may glorify the Father in heaven. We prove what is good by bringing our conduct into harmony with His Word, with that which we have come to know from abiding in His Word. (What is abiding? Spend a few days meditating on John 14-17; and 1 and 2 John. And in the future, there will be many posts on abiding here, but for now consider this).
Walk as Children of Light
The command to us, our call to obedience is, “to walk as children of Light (for we are in fact Light in the Lord), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate but expose deeds of darkness…”
Vs 11 We do not participate, so as to “relate” to others. We do not sin to “reach out” and we do not approve of the darkness because “well, it is a small deal, it is one time…they need to feel accepted…” Or for any other worldly reason you’ve come up with. We need God’s logic here, not our emotionally driven opinions.
And do not participate by our silence. But before asking “how do we do expose darkness?” a word of caution. We must guard against phariseeism, and against issuing God’s wrath for Him. We do NOT act on His behalf when we blow up abortion clinics, or when we slander sinners, or when we show how wonderfully we’ve painted the outside of our tombs…From Luke 9:55 we learn that we cannot call down fire from heaven. We are also tempted to pray as David prayed (dash their teeth against rocks! Let wild beasts eat them! Kill them all!) but Jesus would have us pray for all, even our enemies, that God would rescue them, help them.
Vs 13 We expose darkness (i.e. words and deeds contrary to God’s revealed will) by simply being the LIGHT. The Light chases away the darkness, shows how dark it was, and eventually brings light into the areas impacted by darkness. This word can also mean “reprove” and as we remember from 2 Tim 3:13-end, we must not judge those walking in darkness as “beyond God’s reach.” We reprove knowing He can transform them, as He is doing in us.
We remember how He has changed us, we abide with the One who is the True Light, and walk in His Light, drawing others into His beautiful, marvelous, lovely, Light. We do not condemn, we expose the darkness by not approving of it. As we grow in our knowledge of Him (see this post on how Light represents knowledge) our lives will shine His Light into the darkness around us. Darkness surpasses truth, but we delight in truth. We confront or reprove as the Spirit leads and guides our conversations, the fruit of lips that unwaveringly delight in His Words, knowing that the fulness of joy is only found at His right hand forevermore (see Psalm 16).
We often try to go about life without sharing divine truth, why is that? Let us be more transparent about His resurrection power, His love, His words of eternal life.
Christians will admonish one another, in love and as the fruit of the Light. The world delights in its own idea of transparency that stops short of the cross and of resurrection power; the Spirit draws us rather to humility and boasting in the Cross. “I’m a mess, but the Spirit is at work in me! I have sinned, pray for me! I’m falling apart, but He keeps me, and through your prayers I know He will help!” “I will hope in God, for He will yet…” (For further encouragement, see here.)