Good morning, Y’all. I don’t know about you but I’m really struggling with maintaining my focus on God’s peace these days: feeling it, offering it, abiding in it. There just seems to be a pervading atmosphere of agitation and aggression. Are you feeling it, too?
Our world is saturated with ‘fight’ talk. When we do something well we say we “killed it.” When we face a challenge we call it a “battle.” We have relabeled ‘success’ as ‘win’ which implies there was also someone who ‘lost’ which means I can only succeed at something if I defeat someone else in the process. I hear Christians say they have to “fight for God, defend the church, defeat the evil forces (which apparently is any group who doesn’t think or act like the self-defined ‘us’).”
The only time Jesus was aggressive toward others was in the temple, calling out the religious leaders for perverting God’s commands for their own benefit and the detriment of God’s children. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus’ disciples attempted to physically defend him with violence, Jesus stopped them and healed the one they harmed.
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul intentionally reframes the Roman war-suit with God’s love and grace so that the people listening to his words would lay aside their tendency for violence. Paul is undoing their idea of what armor is so they can redress themselves as people of God’s Kingdom. Paul tells us to stand in God’s strength with the full confidence that Jesus has already defeated the forces of evil. The Armor of God is not about having a bigger weapon than the next person. The armor of God isn’t aggression or anger or ego and it definitely isn’t about our defending God. The armor of God is about letting God’s love be our strength, walking humbly with God, and seeing others with compassion.
Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand.
So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate,
and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace.
Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers.
Ephesians 6:10-18, Common English Bible
The biggest trick of the devil is to convince us that we have to be aggressive toward our fellow human beings in the name of God, that somehow it is our job to defend God. In claiming an ability and power to defend God, we are making God dependent on us, smaller and less powerful than us. The devil tricks us into thinking we have to fight each other rather than let God’s love defend us from the devil’s tricks.
C. S. Lewis said, “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.” We are called by God to Love and to spread the Good News of Peace, to be a part of the revolution of compassion. Instead of using our faith to vanquish other people we disagree with or don’t like, let’s walk with Jesus in the power of love and participate in bringing God’s Kingdom on earth as in heaven.
I am feeling strengthened with the armor of Love, and I pray you are as well. Together with God we can stand as God’s beloved children, offering true peace to the world.