Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16
Nuance is everything in this passage. Depending on how you read these words, you can either find yourself emboldened or shrunken back. The hinge seems to be on the word “carefully.”
Since it’s in the context of walking, I think about how I go to check on my kids after bedtime. We live in an older house, and at night the wooden floors creak with every step. So I creep through the playroom down the hall—being very careful how I walk—to try and keep the creaks from waking them up. The thing about my walk in this instance is that it’s a defensive carefulness. I’m careful with every footfall, like I’m walking on eggshells, because I don’t want to step in the wrong place.
But I don’t think the verse above is meant to cause us to watch every footfall, our head swiveling back and forth and sweat beading on our foreheads to make sure we don’t step wrongly. It’s true that some of the Christian life demands such acute awareness—when we are careful where we go, what we see, and what we do to avoid sin. And sin is everywhere because, as the verse says, the days are evil.
In the context above, however, it seems to be more of an offensive carefulness that Paul wanted to inspire. We are to be careful in order to make the best use of time – literally, redeeming the time. When you redeem something, you trade it in for something better. You “buy back” the time you have been given to use for good. In this sense, our head is swiveling around, but it’s not fear that motivates our walk. It’s anticipation. We look in every direction to make sure we’re not missing any chance to do good by way of the gospel.
Here is where this truth hits the road right now—summer.
We typically think about the summer as a time to pull back. To take a break. To rest up for what will be a busy fall. So we go to the beach, sleep late, and lounge around.
In other words, we play defense against the pressures of life. But what if instead of playing defense this summer, we chose to play offense? What if we had a redemptive mindset toward the time we have, rather than a defensive one?
Summer could become something different. A time to walk boldly. A time to engage rather than pull back. A time to stride through life, looking this way and that, determined not to miss any opportunity.
The summer is coming, and it could be more than a time for mowing the lawn and sipping lemonade. Certainly it can be those things, too, but let’s not neglect the best for the good. Be on the offense. Gather a few people and redeem the time. One easy way to do this is to set aside weekly or bi-weekly times where a small group of men or women can meet for an early weekend breakfast or after dinner hangout. During that time, discuss what God has been teaching you, confess sin, hold each other accountable.
And in so doing, redeem the time.