Second Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14

Wake Up, Sleepy Head!

Have you ever been in a rut? What put you “back on track?”

Popular Translation

8 You lived in darkness, but now you live in the light the Lord gives us. Live as children of God’s light. 9-10 Show everyone what really makes the Lord happy. Do the good things. Live the right way with God. Be faithful and tell the truth. This kind of life is the fruit of God’s light.

11 Don’t come into contact with evil. Reject it. It is worthless. 12 It’s not even worth it to talk about what some people do in secret.

13 Soon, everything done in private will come to light. In fact, the truth that reveals evil is light. So, listen to these words:

Wake up, sleepy head! Stand up from those who act like they are dead. Then, the light of Christ will shine on you!

Literal Translation

8 For then you were dark, but now (you are) light in the LORD. Walk (throughout life) as children of the light– 9 for the fruit of the light (is) in all goodness and righteousness and truth- 10 proving what is truly pleasing to the LORD, 11 and do not be in fellowship with the fruitless works of evil, but even more so, rebuke (them). 12 For, it is shameful to mention the (actions) being done by them in secret, 13 but everything being rebuked by the light is clearly shown, 14 for everything being clearly shown is light. So, it says:

Rise up, sleeping (one), stand up from the dead, and CHRIST will shine on you.

5:8a-11 This sentence revolves around three commands: “walk (throughout life)...do not be in fellowship...rebuke (them).” 5:8a is the positive command, while 5:11 has the two negative commands. 5:9 is an aside that comments on the life-long walk. 5:10 is a clause that modifies”children of light.”

5:13-14a “but everything being rebuked by the light is clearly shown, for everything being clearly shown is light.” The “light” is the agent of revelation in these verses. The light revealed evil for what it truly was (“everything being rebuked...”). The truth about evil itself is the light. The later sense of light is the means (truth is light); the former sense is results (the light shows the truth about evil).

5:14b “Rise up, sleeping (one), stand up from the dead, and CHRIST will shine on you.” The origin of this phrase is unknown. It was possibly a line from a baptismal hymn.

In these verses, the author (Paul?) used a familiar metaphor for life: light and darkness. These opposing images can be used for a moral lifestyle, for spiritual insight, and even for a change of heart. But most importantly, to the author, it represented the public forum, life before neighbors, community, and nation.

The author images of light and dark could be reduced to a question: does public persona reflect personal life choices? Have you ever met someone who lived a lie: the person who showed the happy face but was despairing inside, the person who used the appearance of good to cover a sinful private life? This disparity could find its root in a spiritual rut. If someone is not growing in faith, then the faith withers. The believer who finds him/herself in a spiritual rut becomes lazy, and even begins to cut corners. The rut soon becomes a slow spiral, maintaining appearances, while slowly returning to a life dominated by sin. This is the easy way: show off the good, hide the evil.

If you find yourself in a spiritual rut, in a life that doesn’t seem to be in spiritual sync, the author ended this passage with message for you. WAKE UP! STAND UP from those who are dead! Then, the Lord will shine his light on you.

When has the Lord shaken you out of your ruts? How has he helped you return to spiritual growth? (Don’t worry, we’ve all had times of spiritual ruts.)