Ephesians 5 …Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
A few years ago, the elders’ wives at the church I attended planned a women’s retreat entitled “Exposed,” taken from this section in Ephesians. I was a women’s ministry leader at the time, but to be honest, I dreaded going to this retreat. The title did not in any way naturally draw me. Personally, I did not want to be exposed and did not care to be apart of something that had set that as its agenda.
Then I went to the retreat. Each woman that spoke gave brutally honest testimony of where she had been in her darkness, how God had brought her from darkness to light, and all the ways God was still meeting her in her failures. Each one was exposing themselves, bringing their ugly pasts and some of their ugly present into the light. It ended up being one of the most powerful retreats with long lasting outcomes I have ever witnessed. As each speaker spoke on God’s redemption of her particular sin or the sins committed against her(gluttony, sexual addiction, vanity, sexual abuse, and so forth), women started understanding that hiding their sin, shame, and guilt was not the answer. Woman after woman started admitting her sin, exposing herself by walking out of the darkness and into the light. And while that can be terrifying and cruelly damaging in the wrong context, in the light of the gospel, it was beautiful, redemptive, and uplifting.
When Paul says to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness and instead expose them, we probably all think of an instance of someone maliciously revealing someone else’s sin or shame. When people in darkness rip at others in darkness, there is no good that can come from it. Exposure of sin apart from the gospel is cruel, leaving devastation and hopelessness in its wake. It took that women’s retreat for me to finally understand how radically different God’s call to exposure is. In light of the gospel, I do not have to fear exposure. Instead, God says bring all of the nooks and crannies of your sin and shame to me. Let me shine the light of the gospel into even your deepest and darkest place of fear and guilt. And when these things are exposed to the light, they first become visible. And then they become light. What radical transformation! I praise God for the humble, godly women who chose this verse for that retreat (surely with great trepidation) and then lived the beauty of this kind of exposure out before me. Instead of being devastating and degrading, we were moved by the beauty of God’s power to redeem to the praise of his glorious grace.