Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Eph 5:11-13
When I was in high school, I was deathly afraid of public speaking. I had a project due in a history class that required that I make an oral presentation, and the closer the deadline came, the more I started to panic. I avoided the problem by cutting class—several times in a row. I'm not sure why I thought I could continue with it, but don't underestimate the power of fear. I was finally caught and did a few hours of detention, and I was forced to deliver the presentation. My speech wasn't very good, but the experience wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
The thing I remember most is how relieved I was not to be sneaking around. As terrified as I was of standing up in front of other students, I hated the deception. I had to avoid the teacher while I was walking through the halls; I felt ashamed. When the truant officer finally caught me, it was humiliating but I had a sense of relief. Sometimes the best thing that can happen to us is that our hidden behavior gets dragged into the spotlight.
There is a lot of value in our culture on maintaining a distinction between our public and private lives. Privacy is a cardinal value of today's world; with increases in technology, it's becoming a rare commodity. Keeping our personal information away from advertisers or from being exploited by hackers are ideas we're all in tune with. But the same privacy interest can be used to hide behind—to live a double life. When privacy becomes a means to live in sin, it takes on the biblical idea of darkness. It's the way evil hides so that it can grow.
With the scandal in Hollywood and politics today, we're forced to notice what an epidemic this kind of darkness has become. People abuse their power to create zones in which they can sin outside the public eye. It's not just secret; they fabricate their own morals to justify it. Hollywood tells us what is acceptable, and then it believes its own story. Like Adam and Eve, we try to define what's best and good for our own lives and ignore God's standards. It's easiest to do when we create and live in our own little kingdoms of darkness, like these celebrities and politicians.
There is no blessing, peace, or joy in the darkness. God's power doesn't extend to our little kingdoms—only his perfect one. We rob ourselves of the lives he wants us to have when we use our privacy to sin. Paul was reminding the Ephesians of that in his letter; they had changed kingdoms and gained a new identity. They were free, for the first time in their lives. They were recipients of God's blessing and power. The only way they could blow it was if they continued to sin in secret, which was so typical of the cults of Ephesus.
The same thing is true of us. We don't need celebrity examples to know what destruction comes from hiding sin. We've all had experiences like this, where our sin has backfired on us when we've been caught, or when we've lived outside of God's power and blessing in exchange for having private lives under our own control. Addictions rob us of life; to the degree that we foster them in the darkness, we are controlled by our failure and lose the things God wants for us.
Paul tells the Ephesians not only to avoid sin but to expose it (Eph 5:11). It can be painful and humiliating to do that, but it's the only way to break free of its control. I doubt most of the celebrities and politicians who are being exposed feel like someone has done them a favor, but that's exactly what's happened. They were prisoners of their own sin, trapped in a kingdom of their own creation. Now they are free of it, and they have the chance to be a light to others. As Paul says, whatever is illuminated becomes a light (Eph 5:13). I don't know how many of them will use this opportunity to come clean and help others who are similarly in bondage, but I pray they do.
If you're not experiencing the life you want, you might be in the same situation. The solution is simple; bring everything into the light. Don't wait to be exposed; live transparently before others. The darkness has no power if you walk in the light. Find people to hold you accountable and challenge you out of love. Live the same life in private that you do before others. Glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and experience his amazing power.