It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.
It is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.
The things that they do in secret are shameful even to mention.
The thing that they do in secret is an abomination to mention.
That’s five different translations that represent a dozen or more translations of Ephesians 5:12.
On the basis of this verse, many church leaders have said, “Don’t talk about the evils of sexual abuse, especially sexual abuse in the churches.”
But I’m about to go to what Boz Tchividjian called a “historic” conference called “Open Your Eyes,” presented by G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment) and the Julie Valentine Center, the local rape crisis center in Greenville, SC.
They’re going to talk about it.
But what about Ephesians 5:12?
Are we really supposed to keep our mouths shut?
Listen to Ephesians 5:11, the verse just before the one in question:
Have no empathy-and-participation with the barren efforts of obscurity, but instead, expose those sins with a goal of turning hearts to truth. (That’s my own loose paraphrase, based on the way the Greek words are used elsewhere in the New Testament.)
So then, if we’re to believe the church leaders who say “sexual abuse is too shameful for us to talk about,” we’d have to think that Paul must have followed that forceful statement in verse 11 with something that basically means (verse 12), “You must expose sins, except for the ones that are done in secret, because they’re too shameful to expose. Don’t expose them.”
You’ve got to be kidding. Really?
Then in verse 13 he goes on to say that light—the light of truth, the light of Christ—will indeed expose these deeds.
How can he possibly be saying to keep them in the dark? What kind of schizophrenic is he?
Matthew Martellus (Abolish Human Abortion) said it well when he said that Ephesians 5:12 “should not be interpreted as a prohibition against mentioning certain acts, but as a statement that certain acts need to be exposed all the more, because they are so shameful. And they are so shameful that people consider it taboo to even mention them! When those who walk in darkness consider something taboo, you know that thing is especially evil. And that is what Paul is trying to get at. A good paraphrase of verses 11-12 might say something like this: “Take no part in the spiritually unprofitable works of darkness, but rather expose and repudiate them. For some of those things done in secret are so bad that they cannot even be mentioned in polite company.” (Emphasis mine.)
Some sins may be joked about, but this one isn’t. Even the evil perpetrators won’t mention their evil deeds in polite company. This is where we are with the issue of sexual abuse in our churches.
Shine the light. Open your eyes. Stop with the gag orders. Let victims talk. Lead them graciously to the Savior, but let them talk. Speak out yourself. Cry out against these terrible crimes.
Some things done in secret are so bad that they can’t be mentioned in polite company. All the more reason to bring them out in the open.
And may the warm light of Jesus Christ shine hope and healing into the hearts of the wounded ones.