"The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light."
Romans 13:12 (ESV)
A few years ago, I participated in a "mud run" with my middle school students. Mud and running are two things at the bottom of my list of favorites. Soon after we began running, my shoes and clothes became heavy with mud, which made running and even walking difficult and quite frankly pretty gross.
That feeling is a lot like works of darkness. Just as the mud slowed down all the participants in the mud run, so our sin weighs us down in the race of life.
Romans 13:8-14 instructs us to take off our sinful deeds
and put on the armor of light.
The book of Romans continually emphasizes faith alone for salvation, so Paul's admonitions related to behavior (Romans 13:13) might seem confusing at first. When it comes to belief and behavior, the order is extremely important.
If we start with behavior and try to do everything right, we can find ourselves trapped in legalism. We must begin with faith in Christ. Then our hearts are transformed, resulting in changed behavior.
Plus, we need to remember that Paul's instructions regarding sin come from his message about love fulfilling the law. (Romans 13:8-10) He wasn't saying, "Be really good so God will love you." No! Our commitment to love others springs from our belief that God is good and His ways are worth following.
After telling the Romans about the priority of love, Paul told them that this love, and the imminent return of Christ, should wake them up, (Romans 13:11) and he urged them to flee from sins that would get them off-course from their love and purpose in Christ.
Paul knew the Roman Christians were fighting against their own sinful nature and the immoral culture of Rome. The believers in Rome needed to stay on guard against the lure of darkness surrounding them so they could walk in the light as Christ is in the light.
Likewise, we can become apathetic, bored, or distracted so easily in our culture. We, too, must live faithfully despite the worldly culture in which we live. 1 John 1:7 reads, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”
After I finished the mud run, all I wanted to do was change into clean clothes and shoes. However, the event took place in the back of the school and I still had to spend time releasing the kids for the day and clean up my classroom from the activities that occurred before the run. So with mud still in my hair and hardened on my legs, I simply changed my clothes - but the mud was clearly still there.
Sometimes we try to do this spiritually: We try to clean ourselves up from bad habits, temptations and fleshly desires. But we can't manage our sin on our own. In other words, the mud is still there if we simply try to change it on our own power.
Instead, as we consider what we consume in our culture, we can ask the Lord to reveal any places of darkness that we need to "cast off" (Romans 13:12) so we can walk in the light to be armored against the darkness of this world.
God is calling us into the light - not to earn His love but to grow in it.
Prayer: Lord, give me a right understanding of belief and behavior. I want to throw off my dark deeds like dirty clothes. Come and clothe me in Your presence with the armor of right living. Reveal areas that need change, and empower me to make changes! In Jesus' name, amen.
Check out the LOVE + LIGHT COLLECTION that highlights themes of "love" and "light" from the Bible to remind yourself to cast off the darkness and walk in the light so others may see you and join you in glorifying your Father in Heaven.
(Modified from Melissa Spoelstra, Romans Bible Study commentary)