But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5.13-16.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul frequently uses the metaphor of “walking” to express the way a Christian lives his or her life. First, I am to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4.1-3). Then I am to “no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (Ephesians 4.17). Third, I am to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5.2). And finally I am to walk as a child of light … “Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5.8). It is this last aspect of the Christian walk that Paul is explaining in the passage that has been given me this morning.
Two days ago, in my post entitled “Arise, Shine …” (28 January 2009), I wrote about how it is the glory of the Risen Lord that shines on his church so that it becomes a light in the darkness, and what Paul writes here expands upon that. Quoting what is presumably an early Christian hymn or piece of baptismal liturgy (it is not a quotation from anywhere in the Bible), he says in effect that when I wake up and rise from the dead of my old life (out of the waters of baptism?) into the new life that Jesus offers me, a new day will dawn as Jesus himself, risen, ascended, glorified, will rise over me like the sun and shine on me; and he will make everything visible so that I can walk as a child of light.
The Greek word translated “carefully” is akribos. It means “with accuracy” and the sense here is that, as the light of Christ illumines the path he wants me to walk, I must take care not to deviate from it but to stick closely to it. The Message nicely paraphrases, “Look carefully then how you walk,” as simply, “Watch your step.”
And The Message then goes on to paraphrase the next phrase — “not as unwise but wise” — as, “Use your head.” The Christian walk is not some airy, fairy, transport of delight down a silver pathway to some golden gates. It demands both close attention to what the light is revealing and clear thinking about what to do and say in any given circumstance and how to act and react in any situation.
And it involves “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” The verb here is agorazo. It means literally “to buy in the market” (the agora is the market place) and the picture here is someone on the look-out for a bargain and grabbing it. And the things I am to watch out for and snap up when I spot them are opportunities. That is the force of the word kairos that is here translated “time”. Time in the sense of a clock ticking away is chronos not kairos. That is why Paul follows the phrase by his reference to the days being evil. There are not many opportunities, so seize each one that presents itself or, as The Message puts it: “Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!”
Lord, help me to walk as a child of light today … watching my step, using my head and making the most of every chance you give me to reflect your light into this dark world. Amen.