The Difference Between Night and Day
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18)
Analysis by Steven Albertin
8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves
another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "You shall not commit
adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet";
and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as
yourself." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the
fulfilling of the law.
11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you
to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became
believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside
the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably
as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and
licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord
Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
DIAGNOSIS: THE NIGHT
Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) - The Persistent Darkness
Just as each day inevitably turns to evening, just as light always becomes
darkness, Christians are unable to shake darkness from their lives. Contrary
to the pietistic claims of progress and perfection, the works of darkness (v.
12) persist. Our culture is all too quick to remind us that we are "only
human." No one is perfect. We all fail to love others as we ought. The "Dr.
Lauras" of the world are quick to point out how our second-table-decalogue
righteousness (v. 9) never measures up. We may have thought that we could
keep our carousing (v. 13) hidden in the darkness but sooner or later we all
get exposed. Just when we were getting comfortable in the darkness and
enjoying our nap (v. 11), the shrill harangues of the moralists wake us up
with their irritating criticisms.
Step 2: Advance Diagnosis (Internal Problem) - The Heart of Darkness
The problem is not just our bad behavior and our failure to keep those second
table commandments (vv. 9, 12, 13). The real problem is exposed by the first
table of the decalogue and its exposure of our unfaith. Our heart is
ultimately a heart of darkness, imprisoned by the desires of the flesh (v.
14). Those desires not only entice us into wanting to live life on our own
terms but also to do it without God. The fact that we never can shake that
feeling that we always "owe" (v. 8) someone and that we always feel obligated
to the demands of moralists and their humanitarian appeals to the Golden Rule
(v. 9) indicates a deeper internal problem. We have hearts that can never be
at rest. We have consciences that are never fully at peace. Our sleep is
always being disturbed. We sought refuge in the darkness but now we are
embarrassed by it because it reveals the real problem: Our hearts of darkness
do not "fear, love and trust God" above all things.
Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) - The Hour of Darkness
Paul senses that time is of the essence (v. 11). The darkness is about to
end. The criticism of the moralists (who, after all, are created in the image
of God!) is also the God's criticism. Their criticism is also a foreshadowing
of the Final Criticism. We, who are trying to enjoy our sleep, despise this
sounding of the alarm. We fear what the first rays of light breaking the
horizon will bring, i.e., exposure of not only of our works of darkness but
also our hearts of darkness and our utter disregard for God. Such exposure is
dangerous and deadly, eternally deadly, because God is the One who is coming
to wake us up. God is not thrilled with those who prefer the darkness. You
can't spend your life in bed. But if you don't want to wake up and get
dressed, God will make sure you stay asleep, permanently and eternally.
PROGNOSIS: THE DAY
Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) - But The Daylight Is Good!
But God does not take delight in putting people to sleep, permanently and
eternally. Therefore, God in Jesus Christ joins us in the darkness and
suffers on the cross the criticism and exposure of the daylight "for us and
our salvation." Thus, the coming of the dawn is radically different from the
night. Contrary to what we feared, the daylight is good news. The scalding
exposure of the light has been transformed. Jesus has been raised from the
dead. For those who cling to Jesus, God's criticism is ended and the
judgment is silenced. Put on Christ (v. 14) and we will be dressed for the
daylight. And God will smile at us as if we were his Son.
Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) - Dressed for the Daylight
Paul urges us to change our clothes, to shed our pajamas and put on Christ
(v. 14). Through this baptismal imagery Paul invites us to trust what God
has done for us in Christ. Trusting in Christ, we trust in God and find
ourselves keeping what seemed impossible to keep, i.e., the first table of
the decalogue. Covered by Christ and his righteousness, there is no longer
any need to hide in the darkness. We are no longer ashamed. We can love
ourselves (v. 9) because God has loved us first. And that changes
everything. Nothing is the same because now the day is different from the
Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) - Armed With Light
Living in the light is no piece of cake. If anything, it resembles warfare
(v. 12). The darkness always lurking to overwhelm our faith in Christ and
drive us back into the darkness. The flesh still tempts us to gratify its
desires (v. 14). But because we have put on Christ, we know that we are well
dressed, well armed (v. 12) and ready to conduct our warfare against the
powers of the darkness. It is a privilege and an honor (v. 13). There is
nothing to hide. Living this way is a "get to" because we know that we are
covered with Christ and have nothing to fear. When the day arrives and we are
exposed, we know that we are covered. Because of God's love for us in
Christ, we can love ourselves and therefore are able to love our neighbor (v.
8). Second table decalogue righteousness becomes a possibility (v. 9). Loving
our neighbor and keeping the commandments is now no more an obligation than
it is to honor (v. 13) the one we love. Living like this is so unlike living
under the power of the darkness where we are constantly worried, afraid and
ashamed. Having put on Christ and the armor of light, we are free to love one
another (v. 8). Yes, living in the light and being dressed in Christ is as
different as the night is from the day!