Once Upon a Time . . . But Now!

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

Ephesians 5:8

"Once upon a time . . . ." How do you feel when you read this phrase? Excited? Intrigued? Invited into an adventure? For centuries, stories have begun with this familiar phrase. "Once upon a time" suggests that we're about to visit a time long ago, when magic, mysteries, and morality were gloriously interwoven. It invites us to open our minds and engage our imaginations.

In Ephesians, "once upon a time" functions quite differently. In 5:8, for example, we read "For you were once [pote in Greek] darkness, but now [nun in Greek] you are light in the Lord." We saw a similar use of language earlier in Ephesians. Chapter 2, as you may recall, begins with the bad news of our "once upon a time" condition: We were dead in our transgressions and sins, in which we "used to [pote] live" (2:1-2). We lived among those who are disobedient "at one time [pote]" (2:3). But God, out of his mercy and grace, saved us from our "once upon a time" condition.

In the second half of Ephesians 2, the "once . . . now" schema is even more obvious. There, we were "formerly [pote]" Gentiles by birth and therefore separated from God and his people (2:11-12). We were "once [pote]" far away from the Lord, his life and hope (2:13). "But now [nun] in Christ Jesus," we have been "brought near by the blood of Christ" (2:13).

In Ephesians, "once" does not point to a magical, fictional time long ago, but rather to our very real, nonfictional condition before God saved us by his grace. Once we were really dead; but now we are really alive in Christ. Once we were really separated from God and his people; but now we have been brought near through Christ. Once we were darkness, but now we are "light in the Lord." We experience a fundamental reality change, a genuine transformation, when we receive God's grace through faith. We move from once to now. "The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Cor. 5:17).

Of course, we all know that our "onceness" has a way of hanging around as an uninvited guest. The good news is that God is in the business of helping us become in reality who we are in our "nowness" (Phil. 1:6). The Apostle Paul realizes this, which is one main reason why he writes the second half of Ephesians. But, even as we acknowledge that "God isn't finished with us yet," we should also confess and celebrate the truth of our newness, our "nowness" in Christ. And, we should explore what this new life means in practice.

In future daily reflections, we will do this very thing, examining the implications of our transformation from "once darkness" to "now light." In the meanwhile, I invite you to consider this truth and its implications for you today.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you think about your life, does the "once-now" schema make sense? This can be a bit tricky if, like me, you came to faith at a very early age. Can you point to areas of your life where you have experienced a change from "once" to "now"? How might you live in your "nowness" today?

PRAYER: Gracious God, how I thank you for the good news of the Gospel. Once I was dead; now I am alive in Christ. Once I was cut off from you and your people; now I am united to you and part of your family. Once I was darkness; now I am light in you. Thank you for your amazing grace that has changed me.

Help me, dear Lord, to see myself and my life from the perspective of the "once-now." And may I live in my "nowness" as your Spirit fills me, guides me, and empowers me for serving you. Amen.

Social Justice at Work

When God asks us to take care of the orphan, widow, and the poor, what does that mean for our workplaces? How do we follow a social justice mandate in our offices, schools, warehouses and retail establishments? And how does it change our world when social justice works the way God intended?

In the series Social Justice at Work, The High Calling explores social justice in the places we work and the ways we work. Join us as we discuss how our calling to the "least of these" affects us outwardly in our jobs, and inwardly as we perform our jobs, via theme-related Bible reflections, featured articles, and discussion starters. We encourage you to add your questions, concerns and comments, engage with us on social media (especially Twitter and Facebook), and invite your friends and colleagues to do the same.