Ephesians 6:10-20 (NRSV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
The writer of Ephesians is in prison, probably chained to a Roman guard. To encourage the Christian community in Ephesus, the writer looks at his Roman jailer and decides to use the soldier’s armor to symbolize or illustrate the qualities of God that the Ephesian Christians need as they engage the community and world. The writer’s suggestions not only speak to the Ephesians but also to those of us who are attempting to be faithful in our twenty-first century discipleship.
As disciples of Jesus Christ we must cinch on the belt of truth so we can stand up to the untruthfulness that so often invades and threatens our morality and ethics. We must don the breastplate of righteousness to guide us in our decisions. Our feet need shoes of peace in a world that too often chooses aggression and war. We need a shield of faith to bolster us during those times of difficulty and pain. There needs to be a helmet of salvation to remind us that we are always being held in the loving arms of God. We carry the sword of the spirit so we can bring positive change to our communities and the world. We need to pray so we might have a transforming and sustaining relationship with God. Finally, we need God’s Word as a road map for our lives.
Being a followers of Jesus in today’s world is not natural or easy. Thus the writer suggests that we shouldn’t go out unarmed. It’s tough out there. The world speaks a different language and certainly has a different agenda than the church and its followers. Disciples of Jesus Christ must be in the world speaking a different language, the language of love.
Gerhard von Rad suggests in his, Old Testament Theology, that in the days of the Roman empire an emperor could not be everywhere in his realm. So the emperor made statues of himself to be erected throughout the land. These statues or images where to show everyone that the kingdom belonged to him and no one else. We are God’s images that are placed on the face of the earth in order to show that the earth belongs to God. So put on the armor of God and get out there. As Thomas Merton once said, “Our real hope is not in something we think we can do, but in God, who is making something good out of it in some ways we cannot see." Put on the whole armor of God and trust that you can make a difference with God’s help. Think about it.