verse 18: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints
God is passionate about us seeing Him for who He is. Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians as part of his commission from Jesus to go to the Gentiles and open their eyes (enlighten them) so that they might see the reality of who God is and turn from darkness to light (Acts 26:18). We who once walked in darkness have seen a great light, and His name is Jesus Christ. We cannot force someone to act contrarily to his or her own free will, but we can always pray for an enlightened heart. It takes the Holy Spirit to bring vision and perspective, to open our spiritual eyes that remain tightly shut.
For most of us praying this prayer in the Western world, it’s not a matter of being oblivious to the Gospel message. In the United States, it is increasingly rare to find someone who has never heard of Jesus or has never had a brush with Christianity. Why, then, is Paul’s prayer so applicable to us?
It is like walking out into a brilliantly sunny day after spending all morning locked in a photo lab’s darkrooom; you are aware that the light is there (how could you not be?) but you close your eyes tightly because the glare is overwhelming. In the same way, we so often walk around with our spiritual eyes tightly shut, not because we are ignorant to the presence of His light, but because we are incapable of gazing on Him without His Spirit empowering us to do so.
We live in a culture where information is constantly readily available at our fingertips. We have more teachings, more resources, more translations of the Bible than ever before; we also have more diversions and more ways to waste our time. Why don’t we walk more in the power of fellowship with God?–because we find it more appealing to walk in the cool, mellow darkness than in the impassioned intensity of the Son. The more I walk in His radiance, the more I see the clashing colors of His perfection versus my own self-righteousness. My flesh wars against looking at anything that would show me how small I am. His Spirit gives the grace to do so.
And what is the purpose of having an enlightened heart?–simply this: we long to know the hope of His calling. God does not show us our darkness to condemn us; rather, He enlightens our hearts with His love to bring us hope. This is the hang-up we have when we live in a fallen state; we look at God as a judge rather than a lover. He does not expose sin to us in order to celebrate how far from His perfection we have fallen. Instead, He speaks to our heart so that we can know that when we follow Him, we have an opportunity to break the sin-cycle lifestyle.
We are His inheritance; we exist to bring Him glory. There’s no higher calling, no greater honor, no deeper love. There is richness in us that His probing eyes see, and He is trying to bring that to the surface with love.
Lord, open our eyes to Your word. We want to look into the mirror of Your standard without fearing condemnation. Enlighten our eyes to know Your truth so that we may know there is hope in Your calling and richness in walking according to Your ways.