‘Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is’ (Ephesians 5.17)
Paul is not messing around when he speaks to the Ephesians. They are to know that ‘the days are evil’; in other words, time is short. Once they realize that, there is only one appropriate response: Figure out what really matters.
That’s why Paul says, ‘Understand what the will of the Lord is.’ Because, really, there’s not a lot of time to mess around with things that don’t matter.
But can we talk about ‘the will of the Lord’ for a minute? Because typically in North American evangelical contexts, we refer to ‘the will of God’ like it’s some existential, mystical path for our lives that we need to discover. It’s behind door number three… or two… whichever I choose, I just hope I get to ‘live in God’s will.’
We think it has something to do with what job we take, where we buy a house, whom we marry; this determines if we’re ‘in God’s will.’ Sometimes we talk about it like it’s a secret for unlocking the good life where there is nothing but ease and blessing, as if it’s some kind of fortune-cookie sweet-spot with the Divine.
But do you know what Paul is getting at by the phrase ‘the will of the Lord’ here? He’s talked about it earlier in the letter. In the working of his plan to forgive sinners, through the redemption of Christ, he has made ‘known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth‘ (Ephesians 1:9-10).
Did you catch that? God has revealed his ultimate will that he has been working at for ages: to bring all things to a head in Jesus; to sum everything up in him. That he would be the pattern, the ordering principal around which all of creation is built. Jesus is the key to which the whole symphony of the universe is to be tuned.
The will of the Lord is not some Magic 8-ball, Ouija Board nonsense about your future or mine. The will of the Lord is about whether or not you’re going to allow your life to be ordered, morally, by the reality of Jesus who orders the universe.
In other words, it’s not so much ‘who should I marry?’ so much as ‘how should I live when I’m married to them?’ It’s not so much ‘where should I live?’ so much as ‘how should I love my neighbour when I’m there?’ Again, it’s not so much ‘what job should I take?’ so much as ‘how do I work when I’m there?’
The will of the Lord is to order everything in the universe to the standard of Jesus who unites all things. The question for me, while I live out my few, short, evil days, is ‘Will I bring my life into submission to his nature and his character? Will I obey his will?’