Diamonds in the Rough
March 2, 2008
(8) for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
(9) (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),
(10) and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
(11) Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
(12) For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.
(13) But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,
(14) for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you" (ESV)
I have some rocks today, just some gravel that I picked up by the side of the road. Would you consider having one of these pieces of gravel set in a ring and wearing it, or giving it to your spouse as a gift?
Stupid question. It is a piece of stone, a pebble. It is not a gem. But did you know that some people today are paying good money to buy and wear a rough diamond, a stone that looks like a piece of gravel; and not only to wear it, but to flash this rock as though it were something special.
Rough diamonds are not faceted diamonds. No flashes of color, no sparkles, no clarity, no quality in the cut. But right now, lots of people think they are cool.
Now I do not know anything at all about diamonds, either rough or polished. My source is an article in the Wall Street Journal (“That’s quite a rock.” July 28, 2007, P1). Ying Wu, the author of the article, writes: “At De Beers's three U.S. stores, which started offering rough-diamond jewelry two years ago, one of every five pieces sold now features rough diamonds. A $45,000 rough-diamond necklace is displayed prominently in the window of the company's Fifth Avenue store in New York.”
It is not that people have quit buying cut diamonds; that is not going to happen, but there is now a market for rough diamonds. People who crave whatever is new and different in the world of jewelry think they are neat. There is a company called “Diamond in the Rough” that sells these gems. You can now buy rough diamond rings, necklaces, and medallions. The gems have a certain natural, earthy, organic appeal, and they are sometimes a bargain since they include stones, which are not suitable for cutting. For instance, you can get a small, rough diamond in a stainless steel ring for about $600. On the other hand, you can drop a cool $750,000 at Tiffany for a one-of-a-kind necklace of uncut diamonds and pearls. So these rough rocks are not always a bargain.
The biggest problem with these diamonds is that you cannot easily ascertain their value. Faceted diamonds are priced based on cut, color, carat and clarity. These are the “four c’s” of the Gemological Institute of America. The four c’s are the diamond standard, but no industry standards exist for evaluating uncut diamonds. Some people wonder if these gems will have much value at all once the fad for natural diamonds fades away.
So if you have a piece of gravel sitting there on your desk, something you brought in from the street, or perhaps you found a small stone stuck in the treads of your hiking boots, take a closer look. It might be a valuable uncut diamond, or, more likely, it is just a worthless piece of granite. The question is: How can you tell when you are looking at a truly precious gem?
The apostle Paul wonders the same thing as he examines the Christian community in Ephesus, a large seaport city in Asia Minor. These Christians were not like earlier converts to the faith. The first Christians were Jews in Jerusalem and Palestine. They knew the OT, they knew about the Exodus, about the giving of the law and the tabernacle and the temple and the prophets and all the history of Israel that culminated in Jesus of Nazareth. The Christians at Ephesus were Gentiles. They came from a pagan background. They had probably never even heard of the OT, and did not care. Paul had preached the gospel to them as the way to obtain forgiveness of their sins through Jesus Christ, and they believed. Some time has gone by since Paul founded the church at Ephesus. The believers there have learned much about being disciples of Christ. Paul says that at one time, they were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God” (Ephesians 2:12). They were aliens and strangers, without God and without hope.
That was their condition, but no longer. In verses 13-14, Paul says, But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”
What an amazing transformation! These pagan Ephesians were diamonds in the rough, and through the sacrifice of Christ they have now come into relationship with God, right along with Jewish Christians. They are all members of God’s family. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,” writes Paul, “but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (2:19-20).
Paul is convinced that the Ephesians are gems, not gravel. He believes they have real value in the eyes of God, and are precious diamonds in his collection of living stones, but, at this point, they are still rough, they need some polishing and cutting. This polishing and cutting happens as they live their lives in a certain way.
In Ephesians 5:8, Paul reminds them “once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light.” At one point, the Ephesians were rough diamonds, natural, earthy, and organic, but now they have an opportunity to sparkle, shine, and transmit God’s light like a cut, shaped, disciplined and perfected gem. The key is to “live as children of light.”
How do they do that? How do we do that? Well Paul gives us something of an answer in chapter 4. In 4:25 He writes, “… put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
In v28: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”
Again, v29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
V31: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
V32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Paul wants the Ephesians to remove all the impurities that keep them from being brilliant and beautiful diamonds, able to receive and transmit the light of God. And Paul wants the very same for each one of us. These verses are not some kind of advice that Paul gives to them. Paul is talking to us. We need to stop and think. Think about the actions and attitudes in our lives that tend to block God’s light. What can we do to strip away impurities and become the glistening gem that God wants us to be?
Paul gives practical advice. Strip away all bitterness and wrath in your life. Do not slander other people. Do not be filled with malice and evil thoughts. Be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving.
In chapter 5:8-9, Paul says, “Walk as children of light” then to make sure we understand he adds a little explanatory note: “For the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.” This is the Christian way of living. When you live in that way, in the way that is good and right and true, you find yourself changing from a dark, rough, uncut stone into a bright, smooth, and multifaceted gem of a Christian.
Now sometimes we use the phrase “a diamond in the rough” to describe a person. It is sort of a compliment. It says the person is all right. The person has a lot of good qualities, but their personality still needs a lot of work. To use our diamond analogy, a lot of cutting, polishing, and shaping needs to be done to make that person into a beautiful gem. To put it in a Christian way, a person needs to live in a certain way to become the kind of individual that Jesus intends for them to become.
What Paul is saying is that Christ should make a difference in your life. There are things you do and things you do not do because of your belief in Jesus Christ. This is something that tends to get left out of Christianity because this is not easy.
We say believe in Christ and your sins will be forgiven and you will have the promise of eternal life. That is true and that is the easy part. We also should say believe in Christ and Christ will come into your life and move you toward his way of living a heavenly way of living, right now.
Now I know that we are never actually going to be Jesus Christ here on earth. Jesus was God. Jesus was perfect. We are not God; we are only human beings. We are sinners, and we are always going to be sinners to some degree. But what Paul is saying here is that we do not use this as an excuse to do nothing. Christians are by definition people who have God’s Holy Spirit. Therefore, they are people who want to make progress in holiness and who can make progress in holiness.
The greatest problem of our generation is that we excuse bad behavior too easily, in ourselves and in others. Sure, everyone makes mistakes, but the greatest capacity a human being has is the ability to learn from our mistakes.
Paul says some things here that everyone knows are true. You should not lie, you should not steal, you should not say bad things about other people. That is not way to live. Everybody knows that. So Paul says, stop doing it. You have power in Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit, you do not have to do that kind of stuff. What Paul is saying is put some effort in your living and show Christ in your living.
In her book Night on the Flint River, [See: Montgomery-Fate, Tom. Review of Night on the Flint River: An Accidental Journey in Knowing God by Roberta Bondi. Christian Century, April 12, 2000.] Roberta Bondi sets out on a canoe trip near Atlanta, along with two friends, Pam and Jeff. They intended for the trip to last an afternoon, but the outing quickly turned into a disaster. The water level was high, and the riverbed was littered with dead trees. Jeff tore the ligaments in his knee and could barely walk, and when night fell, they were completely lost. They left the river and begin to hike through a wilderness so dark that they could not even see their own hands.
Through this ordeal, Pam remained optimistic. Roberta wrote that “Pam’s love carved out for me a space in the wilderness in which it was safe to breathe ... [and accept] what I thought was my own impending death.” She discovers that “an ordinary human being” such as Pam “never ceases to be the tattered image of God.” Pam is “completely transparent to God” for Roberta, so that for a little while she “can see God truly through that human being.”
For Roberta, Pam becomes a brilliant gem. In her beautifully polished compassion and patience, the light of God shines brightly through her.
This is the goal of all our cutting and polishing — becoming transparent to the light of God. When we focus on what is good and right and true, we turn from “diamonds in the rough” into beautiful, brilliant gems. Our compassion and patience create a channel for the light of the Lord to shine through us.
So try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. You have nothing to lose but darkness, roughness and impurity. As you cut away what Paul calls “the unfruitful works of darkness” (v. 11), you’ll find yourself understanding more about what a Christian life looks like, and you will find yourself living that kind of life.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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