And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
These verses are the summation for this entire section (12:1-13:14) and serve to bring the message into sharp focus. Remember that Paul has been teaching about our response to God’s grace, giving us a clear picture of what our daily lives should look like. Here he sums it all up with a metaphor: Light.
And do this, understanding the present time (13:11) is the transition, referring back to the prior section discussing love in action. It is time to wake up, for the day is coming when the Lord Jesus will return. Notice the urgency in what Paul is talking about here; time’s a wasting! It may seem funny to us all these centuries later to read this urgency, but it is important for us to always bear in mind the fact that Jesus is coming. His literal return could be at any time, or it could be in 10,000 years, and no one knows for sure either way. Yet He came for every single recipient of this letter a long time ago. He came for all of those who have ever read this letter in the centuries that have followed, and He will come for us soon enough, thus Paul’s urgency applies to each of us: Wake up!
Paul’s metaphor of living in the light of day is clear enough; we are to behave in a respectable manner, not as people do in the wee hours when nobody is looking. In verse 13, he mentions several behaviors, and I think they are obvious, so I will only comment on two of them; dissention and jealousy.
I try not to miss opportunities to make a plea for Christian unity, and this is certainly such an opportunity. Must we continue fighting among ourselves, arguing over every little doctrinal difference of opinion? Must we be jealous about the name on the sign in front of the building? Is all of that really so essential?
I don’t believe that it is, do you?
Maybe I’m just a fool, but I think that the times we are living in today are much too serious to indulge ourselves in this sort of thing. Our calling is to build the Body of Christ, so let’s get to building instead of tearing it apart. Let’s clothe ourselves in Christ, and answer our calling instead of glorifying ourselves in endless arguments.
Incidentally, this is a transitional thought that leads us into the next section, verses 14:1-15:13 which discuss our liberty to hold different opinions.