Diamonds in the Rough, Ephesians 5:8-14,   March 2, 2008
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Next time you step into the street, glance about for a small stone, a piece of gravel, something no more than a centimeter across.

Would you consider having it set in a ring and wearing it, or giving it to your spouse as a gift?

You must be joking! It’s a piece of stone, a pebble. It’s not a gem, at least not yet.

That said, there’re a lot of people today who 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. They’re not faceted diamonds. No flashes of color, no sparkles, no clarity, no quality in the cut. But right now, lots of people think they’re cool.

            Rough diamonds are in. Polished diamonds are out.

Well, polished diamonds are never out. But it’s now fashionable to wear rough diamonds instead of the polished variety. They’re increasingly popular among wealthy trendsetters, people who crave whatever is new and different in the world of jewelry.
 
You can now buy rough diamond rings, necklaces and medallions. The gems have a certain natural, earthy, organic appeal, and they’re 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.

The biggest problem with these diamonds is that you cannot easily determine their value. Faceted diamonds are priced based on cut, color, carat and clarity — the “four c’s” of the Gemological Institute of America — but there are no industry standards for evaluating uncut diamonds. If you find a piece of gravel, something you brought in from the street, or was stuck in your boot, take a closer look.
 
            How can you tell when you’re 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 have a Gentile background. At one point, they were “without Christ,” recalls Paul, “being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel … having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

The Ephesians were uncut in more ways than one. They were uncut in terms of circumcision, and were considered to be far from God by the circumcised Jews of that day. They were “the uncircumcision,” says
Paul (2:11). Aliens from Israel. Strangers to the covenant. Without God. Without hope.

“But now,” he points out, “in
ChristJesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (2:13-14).

What an amazing transformation! The uncut Ephesians were diamonds in the rough, and through the sacrifice of
Christ they have now come into relationship with God, right along with the Jewish 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). This was a big deal. Non-Jews had no hope of salvation until that time.

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. Although they are still rough, still in need of refinement.

            What, then, are they supposed to do? How does this happen?

Paul reminds them that “once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light” (5:8). 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.”

            Is this difficult?           Yes.     But is it worth it?        Absolutely.

However, there is going to be some cutting involved — but not the cutting of circumcision. In this case, the cutting involves “putting away falsehood” ... giving up stealing … cutting away “all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice” … cutting away fornication and greed, as well as “obscene, silly, and vulgar talk” (
4:25—5:4).

This is what it means to “live as children of light.”
 
Jeweler DeidreWoollard says, "I’ve always thought of the beauty of a diamond as being a collaboration between nature and man because it takes a skilled cutter to reveal a diamond’s true beauty." In much the same way, ( God and we work together ) (—DeidreWoollard, “Rough diamonds becoming more popular in jewelry,” Luxist Web site, July 29, 2007, luxist.com.)
 
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. Take a minute to think about the actions and attitudes in your life that tend to block God’s light. What can you do to strip away impurities and become the glistening gem that God wants you to be?

“Live as children of light,” says Paul, “for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true” (vv. 8-9). When you live in such a way, you find yourself changing from a dark, rough, uncut stone into a bright, smooth, and multifaceted gem of a true Christian.

Now it’s true we’ll often say that a person is “a diamond in the rough.” That may be a compliment of sorts, but it leaves the impression that a person should not remain in this condition. There’s still work to be done, in terms of cutting, polishing, and shaping the person into a beautiful gem.

Or you might say, after making a mistake, “Well, I’m only human.” That’s true, you are human, but are you only human? We’re not supposed to remain diamonds in the rough, people who are only human. The challenge
Paul lays before us is to “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord” (v. 10).
 
The Greek word for “try to find out” is dokimazo, which also means “discern” or “test.” It is an active verb, one which challenges us to put effort into trying to discover what is the best Christian behavior in the face of challenging real-life circumstances.
 
Dokimazo means to examine and put to the test, as you would test a team of oxen for their usefulness — in the parable of the great dinner, a guest says, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out” (Luke 14:19). Dokimazo. This is not theoretical speculation, but it’s gritty hard work — the same kind of effort you would put into cutting, polishing and shaping a gem to get the best possible shine, translucency and value out of the stone.

The goal of all this work is complete transparency — transparency to the light of God.
 
In her book Night on the Flint River, RobertaBondi sets out on a canoe trip near Atlanta, along with a colleague named Pam and a mutual friend named Jeff. They intend for the trip to last for the afternoon, but the outing quickly turns into a disaster — the water level is high, and the riverbed is littered with dead trees. Jeff tears the ligaments in his knee and can barely walk, and when night falls they’re completely lost. They leave the river and begin to hike through a wilderness so dark that they cannot even see their own hands.

Through this ordeal, the colleague
Pam remains optimistic. Roberta writes 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 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.
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 getting ever more clear about what a Christian life looks like.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Learning to do the will of the Lord, learning what is pleasing to the Lord, is not something that is theoretical: It’s something that is practical.

Let's take it from the standpoint of practicing an instrument. When you are learning a song to play on the piano or the guitar, the point is not simply to know what the notes are that are written on the page, but to get to the point where you can play exactly the notes that are written on the page without having to look at the page, and to do it with interpretation and passion and intensity, and in beauty. The point is not merely to rote memorize what the notes are on the page, but to be able to play the song so that it becomes a part of you.

Well, it’s the same thing in trying to learn and do what is pleasing to the Lord. It’s not just that we know that in one particular Bible passage it says to do this, and another says to not do that; it’s that the reality of what God wants us to do is ingrained in our experience so that it becomes a part of us, and we learn to do what is pleasing to the Lord by doing what is pleasing to the Lord.

In rehearsing a piano song or a guitar song, when you get it the first time you’re not done rehearsing. After you’ve done it the 20th time you’re not done rehearsing. After you’ve done it the 100th time you’re not done rehearsing. You’re working until it’s ingrained in you and it becomes a part of you. And this is what the apostle
Paul is talking about: Children of light practice the Father’s pleasure in such a way that it becomes a part of us. (Dr.J.LigonDuncanIII. “The new walk (3): Children of light.” July 9, 2006, fpcjackson.org. Retrieved September 21, 2007.)
 
"8For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—9for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord." Amen.
 
Sources:

Wu, Ying. “That’s quite a rock.” The Wall Street Journal,
July 28, 2007, P1.

Montgomery-Fate, Tom. Review of Night on the Flint River: An Accidental Journey in Knowing God by RobertaBondi. ChristianCentury, April 12, 2000.
 
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