Summary: Survive This Evil World 1) With sharp eyes 2) With a melodious mouth
Wednesday’s newspaper reported that there were 74 deaths in Iraq in one day. What is the total body count up to now in Iraq and Afghanistan? It has to be in the thousands if not the tens of thousands. Because of this, Iraq and Afghanistan are not exactly places you and I would consider for holiday travel. Still, troops and civilian contractors are being sent to these countries. What kind of advice do you think they receive before heading over? Keep a sharp eye out for suspicious activity? Continue to encourage one another so morale doesn’t diminish?
Incidentally that’s the advice the Apostle Paul gives to us even though we may not have plans to go to the Middle East. Even right here in Alberta we are the targets of the world’s leading terrorist, Satan. Unlike the harm a car bomb can do, the damage Satan and his allies can inflict is eternal. Yes, the world in which we live is evil but we can survive it. Paul says that we survive this evil world with sharp eyes and with a melodious mouth.
Paul’s advice on how to survive an evil world is different than the advice you received on how to survive loud thunderclaps. When nighttime thunderstorms frightened you as a child, didn’t your parents tell you to pull the covers over your head to muffle the sound? This tactic might be one we’ve employed to handle the evil that is around us. We just close our eyes to it and ignore it. But that isn’t Paul’s advice. Paul wrote: “Be very careful [lit. “look clearly”], then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:15-18).
Instead of closing our eyes to all that is going on, Paul tells us to look clearly at it. Why? So that we can determine right from wrong. Our walk to heaven is like a hike through a forest. If you try hiking through a forest with your eyes closed, you’re not going to get very far. You’ll run into a tree or trip over a log. No, it’s a lot easier to walk in a forest with your eyes open. But we need to have more than our eyes open; we want to look at our surroundings with sharp, discerning eyes because in a forest you’ll find many paths. Some of these paths are made by animals and lead to nowhere in particular. Others are made by people looking for shortcuts but lead to dead ends. And finally there is the right path that will take you to your destination. Staying on the right path might seem easy but it isn’t. Not when Satan walks with us suggesting we try several of the shortcuts. The shortcuts that Satan proposes never seem to be that dangerous. For instance with Sunday School and confirmation classes starting up again, Satan will suggest to us teachers: “Oh, you know that story. You don’t need to review it before you present it.” Or he’ll say to you students: “Don’t worry about your memory treasurers, you’ll always have time to get to those later. Besides, it’s not like you’re a pastor or anything so why bother memorizing Bible passages at all?” The only way that we will know this Satan speaking to us and not the voice of reason is if we know clearly what the Lord’s will is. The Lord’s will is that we be faithful in the tasks God has given us to do. We are to do everything to the best of our ability whether we’re a teacher, a student, a council member, a voter, or a Mary-Martha member. The Lord’s will is also that we learn well his Word, no matter how young or old we are or whether we are thinking of becoming a pastor or not.
While sharp eyes will keep us ready for Satan’s subtle attacks, they won’t make living in this evil world any easier. In fact sharp eyes will make us even more aware of how evil and awful this world is. How do we survive it? Paul goes on to tell us that we survive this evil world with a melodious mouth. Paul wrote: “19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19, 20).
From these verses you may get the impression that the Apostle Paul was the kind of guy who loved musicals. I mean, isn’t it a little corny to speak to one another in psalms and spiritual songs? Not at all. In fact lately I’ve found out how right Paul is in insisting that we speak to one another this way. I’ve started to sing songs from the liturgy when I’m struggling to remain patient with my girls (not Sarah, my wife). It helps me calm down and remind myself who Jesus made me to be: a Christian father who is to be patient and understanding. Singing also changes the demeanor of my children. They calm down too and will often sing with me. Try it. You may feel funny at first but the results are worth it!