given on Sunday, August 23, 2015
Scripture base: Ephesians 6:10-20 (NLT)
The Whole Armor of God
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we[a] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.[b] 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.[c] 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.[d]
19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.[e] 20 I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.
NBC has a promotional video currently airing that has caught my attention. Lester Holt is standing in the midst of a community devastated by a natural disaster. Everything is leveled and one lone woman is looking through the debris. He speaks with her.
Holt simply says, “It has been a pretty difficult 24 hours, hasn’t it?”
He stands, arms crossed with an empathetic tone in the midst of unrecognizable debris with only this one victim. She, too, appears composed yet bewildered.
Such a simple question: the video says so much, but the response to Holt’s question haunts me. She answers,“ Yes. Yes, Sir.”
The answer is also simple, but the audio shares much more. She answers, her scanning the scene, with a slow “Yes.” The question interrupted her thoughts, but she answered. Then, you witness her quickly self-correct with “Yes, Sir.”
The video illustrated another news report about what young people need to learn. Turns out that a survey indicates that the most important thing to teach school kids is how to say “Thank you, Sir. Thank you, Ma’am.” I believe that is the same as answering “Yes, Sir. Yes. Ma’am.”
Directly teaching this skill helps arm our young people to manage politely in today’s world. In the video, I realized it is a defense, too, from speaking too quickly or speaking in anger. The good manners become part of the armor needed in our world.
Reading the scripture, using the term “armor of God,” the metaphor seems out of place; almost inappropriate considering that Jesus’ teachings are peace-filled, passive, and loving. A military term such as armor does not fit. Yet, armor is protective gear and ancient society was filled with military action, especially in the Roman Empire of which Ephesus was part.
Paul’s use of the armor of God metaphor made sense to the young church, and in translating his teaching to our 21st century world, the metaphor continues to teach how to live our Christian beliefs in a hostile world. And our world is hostile, even on a daily basis in a peaceful setting far from a military engagement.
Holt’s promo for the evening news provides viewers with an example of a woman who faced utter destruction, but her simple response speaks to us. She learned how to use her Christian armor in the face of nature’s storm. She did not rant and rave of how wronged she was. She did not stand in tears unable to answer. Instead, we have the video to show us that even answering a simple question, she has inner strength and the composure to realize her impolite answer and self-corrected: “Yes. (pause) Yes, Sir.”
At that moment I knew she accepted the difficulties of the last 24 hours, and she did not show anger towards God, towards Holt, or even towards the weather. She demonstrated her upbringing with dignity.
Paul’s use of the armor metaphor provided the Ephesians a means of understanding how to live Jesus’ teaching in daily life. The armor is really a set of defenses to use against any and all evils that confront us today. He was directly teaching character development.
With the diminishing influence of Christian principles in our society, developing one’s armor against all the bad influences around us is failing. Teaching our young people the very qualities Paul shares in the letter to the Ephesians is providing them an armor of God. The metaphor covers the qualities truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the word of God.
Trying to find a metaphor for the 21st century is difficult, but as shared with the kids in the handout, the use of protective sporting gear is one way. In ancient times, the armor included protection for all body parts and today the full protective gear worn by football players is comparable:
- Ancient—a belt stands for truth to defend ones self from lies that the devil uses. Football also has belts, so that symbol representing honesty can still apply.
- Ancient—body armor was the metal shell created to protect the heart and other vital organs. The metaphor explains that the devil attacks our heart that is the base of our emotions, self-worth, and trust. Today football players wear shoulder pads in a similar manner.
- Ancient—shoes represent peace that comes from sharing the Good News of Jesus. Remember that in ancient times, footwear was typically a pair of sandals, but the armor style was designed to cover the foot with metal, too. Sharing the Good News meant taking risks to share the story, rather like football players using cleats to run for the touchdown.
- Ancient—soldiers carried shields. Paul used shields to symbolize faith. The shield deflects the arrows that flew across the battlefield. It takes awareness of the source of evil that targets you, but holding on to faith as your shield serves as a strong defense. Football players themselves are shields. Not only does an individual player defend himself using the strength and agility of his own muscles and wits, the players form a shield for the quarterback carrying out the play.
- Ancient—helmets were fashioned to protect the head, even wrapping around to cover the ears, the chin and the forehead. Our brains harbor our knowledge, but it also makes the decision on what is good and bad. Acceptance of Jesus life and crucifixion leads to salvation; life eternal. No matter what, the brain constantly needs protection. The helmet, even for football players, is critical. No game continues until helmets are secured before the ball moves. As Christians, the helmets we wear protect us from the mental barbs thrown at us. It is critical to protect our brains from all the evil influences and our own human doubts.
- Ancient—swords were the offensive weapon of choice. Each soldier had one. Every battle with evil is a hand to hand confrontation. On the football field, swords are the arms of the players protected with pads as player tackles player. Christians have the Word of God as the sword to defend themselves from evil. Being prepared at all times takes constant practice. Reading and studying the scriptures is a constant practice to keep our swords sharpened. Always be prepared with God’s words when the devil tempts or attacks us.
Paul’s metaphor in the letter to the Ephesians still applies today. The armor may change, but the principle remains the same. We must be ready at any moment for the evil forces to attack us.
Living a Christian lifestyle may not be easy in our difficult world, but keeping our defenses in good working order makes a difference. When asked where is your armor, you know the answer—with God! God is our armor. We know him personally. We depend on his teachings. We practice our beliefs at home, at work, and at play. We keep our armor shined and ready for the moment evil attacks us.
Dear Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Each day we hear how evil attacks people.
Some attacks are violent against your children.
Some attacks are mentally challenging.
Some attacks are from nature.
Thank you for providing us the armor
Needed to protect us from evil.
Thank you for the words of the Bible
Giving us all we need to fight off evil.
Thank you for demonstrating
How to use our faith
And how to live righteously.
Let us share the Good News
So others may experience the peace
That comes from knowing you.
Let us also share the Good News
So others may receive the gift of salvation. –Amen