Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
(Ephesians 5:7-10 ESV)
Yesterday we read how we – those who have been adopted into God’s family through faith in Christ – should not practice sexual impurity. We should instead, practice lives of righteousness to the best of our ability through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul refers to people who don’t do this as “sons of disobedience”. This is the them referred to in today’s verse.
Because these people practice (i.e. make a habit of) disobeying God when it comes to sexual sin, we should not become partakers with them. The Greek word translated “partakers” is συμμετοχηοσ (pronounced: soom-met’-okh-os). This word means “to be involved with”. It was used to refer to the mutual participation in a civic or community endeavor. Those of us who are practicing lives of integrity should not partake in the same activities as those who are practicing sin.
The immediate context of Paul’s words regard sexual sin, but can certainly be applied in a broader sense. Often when we are around people who are not interested in obeying God there will be temptation to sin. Temptation, of course, is the first step to disobedience.
God warns us, therefore, not to get too close to people who do not belong to Him [2 Corinthians 6:14-18]. This does not mean that we can’t have any non-believing friends. Of course we should. God calls on us to reach people with His message of love and forgiveness. Our actions and words will demonstrate the love of God, but only if someone is around to observe and hear them.
We can’t do that if we isolate ourselves, as the Amish do. They separate themselves from society to keep themselves pure. But in so doing they have become a cultural oddity and have no impact for Christ on the lost world around them.
On the other hand, God’s children are to be in the world, but not of the world [John 17:14-19; Romans 8:12] (once again, prepositions are very important when studying the Bible). We are to have friends, neighbors, and coworkers to whom we can show Christ through what we do and say.
But we need to be careful. People who do not know God are practicing sin, even if they don’t realize it. They may pressure us – or we may pressure ourselves – into doing what they do. But this is just the opposite of what God commands. The lives of non-believers should not be influencing our behavior. Rather, our behavior should be influencing theirs.
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