In Ephesians 5, Paul kind of goes off on a tangent- but a very important tangent.
He's been telling the church in Ephesus how to live a holy lifestyle, but now he goes into why we live the way we do.
Live in the World with a Lifestyle that is Different from the World
"Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord."
(I once had a Bible teacher who said that whenever you see "therefore" in Scripture, you should go back and figure out what it's there for. He was clever.)
The "them" that this verse addresses is the people in verse 6- those who might deceive you with empty words- people not living a holy lifestyle... people who tell you that all those "thou shalt nots" are there to ruin all your fun, and lighten up already!
Paul says that because of this, we're not to be partners with them.
What does he mean by "partners?"
Are we to be completely cut off from society? Should we avoid contact with all non-Christians, listen to only Christian music, only watch movies based on the Bible, and if a non-believer strolls past we should hide?
I don't think that's a lifestyle that would please Jesus. After all, he did the whole "eat meals with prostitutes, thieves, and beggars on a regular basis" thing.
We are in the world- we live within a culture, among so many types of people. But we're different.
Being different doesn't mean that we don't associate with non-Christians, or that we're somehow granted a right to judge the people around us (because who the heck are we, anyway? We did nothing to earn this, remember?), but our lifestyle won't match up with theirs. Not really.
It's worth noting here... you are not Jesus. Yes, he spent a ton of his earthly time chillin' with people who were living very sinful lives. But you are not him.
There are so many stories of people who are welcoming and encouraging and spend lots of time with non-believers, but after the course of a few years (or a few months), it becomes hard to tell who is the believer and who isn’t. Ways of life may change because of those relationships, but it's the Christians who often do the changing.
We need to ask ourselves- who is the better evangelist, here? Who is winning whom?
If we see our own life, our own spirit, our own attitude being pulled toward the darkness, we need to be incredibly careful. Being pulled into the lifestyle of the world is so easy.
On the flip side, you won't win any friends or lives for Jesus by being a militant Christian. It is not your job to judge. We're not supposed to force our friends to find Christ.
Remember, we're fishers of men, not hunters of men.
We give the opportunity to come to know Him, but it's really up to each individual, and God working in each heart.
Trying to "hunt" people will only lead to your own disappointment and loss of relationships... and also put a bad taste about Christianity in the mouth of the person we're trying to save.
Our lives are different.
It's not a bossy lifestyle, it's not a spectator-gathering one, nor is an isolated lifestyle.
I think it would be easier to choose one of those lifestyles. I mean, it would be easy to figure out the steps to an isolated life. It's cut and dry. Or a pushy way of approaching life. Just point out flaws in everyone and everything, and back it up with scripture! No biggie!
But when has the Christian walk ever been easy?
This life we're called to lead... it's hard. It's work. It’s complicated. It means making constant decisions, constant evaluations.
You choose not to participate in gossip and turn the conversation back to blessings and building others up. You change a habit of dealing with conflict at work. You change the way you spend your time or spend your money. You hold that tongue for once!
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.
You're now a child of the light. Try your best to discern what God would have you do- in every moment, in every statement, in every action, in every relationship.
The light of your life makes a difference.