"When anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible. …" (Ephesians 5:13).
I once knew a man whose adultery of four years was suddenly exposed, which was a shock not only to his wife and the community-but also to the man himself.
Ephesians 5:13 is more profound than it appears. On first blush, we may find it commonplace that whatever is exposed by the light becomes visible. But this verse is hinting at something about the universe that is not self-evident, and that we would not know unless God revealed it to us. It points to a mystery of iniquity and a principle of human behavior.
The principle is this: Until and unless a wicked practice is brought out into the open and made public, its wickedness will not be fully appreciated-even to the perpetrator himself! The abrupt glare of the searchlight on an evil act exposes it not only to the hitherto ignorant world, but also to the persons who were deeply complicit in the events.
How can this be? How can it be that the committer of the crime is himself stunned and surprised as he is hauled away handcuffed, or confronted by his horrified wife? My conjecture is that while the perpetrator lived with his sin in the dark, the darkness had become a sort of hellish womb where rationales for his conduct could spawn unfettered. There they evolved into great forests of self-justification, far away from any pinprick of light that would challenge them with other data.
The man I knew who was caught in adultery was so self-deceived that he had constructed his own complex morality in which he was a pretty decent fellow.
That happened a long time ago, but I thought of it again when the Penn State scandal broke recently. Of course the many people who are charged with covering up a heinous sin against children knew at some level that they were sinning (Romans 1:18). But my hunch, based on Ephesians 5:13 and 60 years of experience, is that they suddenly knew it much more clearly when it was blasted all over the news and became the national topic of conversation. In a sense, they suddenly saw it themselves for the first time.
An interesting tangent to speculate about is this: What if a whole nation had succeeded in so snuffing out the Light that it all but completely lost its ability to see its own sin?