Saturday 31 August 2019

Bible Book:

Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (v. 13)

Ephesians 6:1-20 Saturday 31 August 2019

Psalm: Psalm 40:1-10


If we had to pick a passage of Scripture where the meaning was changed most by the growth and spread of Christianity, then this would be a prime candidate. In historical Christian society we understand this as physical armour blessed and used for "holy wars". Yet the understanding of the armour of God as physical (as seen in the crusades for example) would have been totally alien to the original recipients of this letter.

The passage makes it clear that "our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh" so what use can physical armour be? Yet so often we focus on physical enemies.

In the well-known imagery of the armour of God we see reflected the armour of a Roman soldier: powerful, successful and feared throughout the world. Yet this letter suggests that material armour is gradually stripped away and replaced with spiritual items that will only serve to make the wearer vulnerable to physical enemies. Would anyone really want to face the barbarians at the gate without a proper physical breastplate and shield?

This passage would of course have been written with the life, actions and teaching of Jesus in mind. He had met Roman soldiers, healed them, lived in a land occupied by them, had freedom fighters in his group of disciples (Simon Zealot and probably Judas Iscariot) and was arrested and crucified by them. This must inform our understanding of this passage. As Jesus was willing to be vulnerable to the violence of Roman soldiers it seems unlikely this passage could be encouraging us to become versions of Roman soldiers – defeating all who stand against us, victorious in battle – be it physical or spiritual.

Instead it seems that, like Jesus, we are to throw away all that the world believes will protect us and replace it with trust in God and faithfulness to the example of Jesus. It might be that for too long Christians have looked to the rich and powerful in search of God's blessing. Maybe we should instead be looking to the vulnerable and weak, to the powerless and persecuted.

Maybe, in this passage from Ephesians, we are being taught to rid ourselves of all that can distract us from a gospel of reconciliation. With no armour for defence and no weapons for attack, what choice do we have but to seek reconciliation in truth and love, showing the grace and mercy that Jesus showed to all he encountered?


To Ponder:

    • What do you rely on for protection?
    • How might this passage change the way you respond to your enemies?
    • What might this mean for you in a nation defended by force of arms?
    • How could this connect to our foreign policy and our relationships with other countries?
    • Is there any instance, as Christians, where physical armour can be used for spiritual good?
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