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In Ephesians 5:15 – 17 we read:

‘Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.’

Similarly, in Colossians 4:5: ‘Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.’

Did you notice that Paul says ‘because the days are evil’? We would agree with that! The ‘days are evil’.

For these ‘evil’ days God gives us clear guidelines about how to live:

Be very careful.
Not as unwise, but as wise.
Make the most of every opportunity.
Don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

The word translated ‘very careful’ is akribos, which refers to a deliberate diligence. It excludes any slackness, any carelessness, any attitude that says ‘Oh, this will be good enough; it doesn’t really matter.’ To be akribos is to strive for excellence.

Where the NIV has ‘make the most of every opportunity’ in both Ephesians and Colossians, the KJV had ‘redeeming the time’. The phrase in the Greek text is exagorazomenoi ton kairon. It literally means ‘buying back the time’. Paul uses the same verb in Galatians 3:13, where he says ‘Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law’. Christ has set us free from the curse of the law, from that evil situation in which we were captive.

Now he instructs us, because the days are evil, that by being wise and by being careful, we are to redeem the time. We are to set each of our moments free from evil. We are not to give in to the evil, to the darkness, to the fear, to the despair. Rather, we are to take each moment and fill it with light and love and life. We are not to let the evil and darkness of COVID-19 overwhelm and overcome us, but we are to continue to be people of faith, people of confident hope, people of compassion, people who rejoice even though we suffer, in the context of our suffering world, in the presence of ‘outsiders’ who do not yet know Christ.

And here that controversial topic of being ‘filled with the Spirit’ becomes very simplified and grounded in the harsh realities of human life. Paul’s command ‘be filled with the Spirit’ is right here in this context (Ephesians 5:18).

It is easy, when we feel threatened, when we are in uncharted territory, when we are in a context of unplanned change, to be foolish. To be confused. To no longer seem able to discern right from wrong. The encompassing darkness, frustration and uncertainties cloud our minds. We desperately need wisdom. Paul’s instruction is ‘don’t be foolish ... understand what the Lord’s will is ... be filled with the Spirit’. In other words – don’t let the evil days dictate your actions and attitudes, rather let God’s Spirit direct you.

The prayer of Saint Francis reflects a heart and mind striving, with God’s help, to redeem the time, to make the most of every opportunity, to make every moment holy:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it's in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it's in dying that we are born to Eternal Life

May we similarly seek and submit to God’s direction to live for his glory in the COVID-19 context ... liberating our days and the days of others from the uncertainties and grief that encompass us and filling them with God’s glory and goodness.

©Rosemary Bardsley 2020