Summary: Paul describes the transformation that happens when a person moves from a life lived in darkness to a life illuminated by Christ. That transformation happens as we, as Christians, take three determined steps that define the difference between ourselves an
Us Isn’t Them! Moving From Darkness To Light
All you have to do is spend a little bit of time listening to many Christians talk before you observe from their conversations an attitude of “Us isn’t them!” … an attitude that marks the boundaries between Christian territory and the territory of the unbeliever, often this is an adversarial demeanor.
However, consider this: According to a study released by Barna Research at the end of 2006, Born again Busters were only somewhat less likely to illegally download music, to smoke, to view pornography, to purchase a lottery ticket, or to use profanity. However, young believers were actually more likely than non-believers to try to get back at someone and to have stolen something. Moreover, on eight of the 16 behaviors, the profile of born again Busters was virtually identical to that of non-born again Busters.
Additionally, 33% of born again pre-Busters believe that cohabitation is morally acceptable. However, among born again Busters nearly twice as many (59%) agreed, representing a majority of young Christian adults. This same response pattern was evident when it came to gambling, sexual fantasies, abortion, sex outside of marriage, profanity, pornography, same-sex marriage, and the use of illegal drugs.
The director of the research, David Kinnaman, pointed out, "The research shows that people’s moral profile is more likely to resemble that of their peer group than it is to take shape around the tenets of a person’s faith. This research paints a compelling picture that moral values are shifting very quickly and significantly within the Christian community as well as outside of it."
Boomers took moral experimentation to new heights, but Busters now live in a world where such experimentation is the norm, not the exception.
Let me boil all of this down for you: According to Barna’s findings, Christians are only marginally different if not identical to the non-Christians in their peer group on an array of moral issues.
Is it any wonder that Paul begins this passage by insisting that the Ephesian believers“no longer live as the Gentiles do”? Obviously, Paul saw a problem in the lifestyle of the Ephesian believers. Obviously, he was aware that some members of the Ephesian Christian Church were living lives that mirrored the lives of their non-Christian neighbors. Obviously, he is concerned that Christians are accepting and owning the life patterns of those outside of God’s family more readily than they are others within the body of Christ.
Klyne Snodgrass has written of these verses, “Change the word ‘Gentiles’ to ‘Americans’ or some other relevant label, and we have little difficulty bringing verses 17-19 into our contemporary situation, for they are like a mirror.”
That struggle to maintain a way of life that demonstrates my connection with God in the midst of a world that doesn’t share that connection is the key to the latter half of Ephesians 4, more accurately, the rest of the book of Ephesians.
So often we can be seduced by the world around us to comply to their redefined moral positions, if not vocally, than all too often on the sly, in the closeted recesses of our lives where we hang out our own dirty laundry. If the data is accurate, the biggest difference between believers and non-believers is often that non-believers are just more public with their moral failings.
But as we look at today’s text, that is not how it is suppose to be. In verses 20-24, Paul describes, and urges the Ephesians toward, the transformation that happens when a person moves from a life lived in darkness to a life illuminated by Christ. That transformation happens as we, as Christians, take three determined steps that define the difference between ourselves and those who don’t belong to God’s family. In this transformation, he makes clear what “Us Isn’t Them” should mean in the context of our everyday lives.
The first step of transformation is:
1. We discover truth in Christ.
(Descubrimos verdad en Cristo.)
“You however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” (4:20-21)
The wording of verses 20-21 is unusual, almost harsh. Literally, verse 20 reads: “You did not learn the Christ this way.” No parallel exists for learning a person. More is intended than mere learning facts about Christ. That is, the readers have been schooled in the Messiah. They know him, have firsthand knowledge of him, and know how radically different his life is from that of the worlds.
Also unusual is the statement they were “taught in him,” but the intent seems to be that the context of their learning was their union with Christ.
“In accordance with the truth that is in Jesus” should not suggest information about Jesus. Paul’s point is that Jesus embodies and encompasses the truth. Find Jesus and you find the truth. Find truth and you find Jesus. Truth does not exist apart from him. This is not surprising, given the expectation in 1:10 that all things will be summed up in Christ. In sum, verses 20-21 describe encounter with Jesus and instruction from union with him so that truth is found in him.