EPHESIANS 6 = BE STRONG IN THE LORD!
Bible Background: This letter was written for people who were very much in the minority in their culture, and whose allegiance to Christ was putting them at odds with their own families and communities. This is not a strategy towards a more aggressive Christian ‘stance’. It’s a strategy for survival, so that the Good News might continue to be proclaimed.
Digging Deeper: 1. Paul is calling on the Christian community (and not just individuals) to stand fast-as a group. (Think of how people in a candlelight vigil stand shoulder to shoulder again the darkness.) They are to stand together against forces that are too strong for them, including the devil and spiritual forces of evil. If there is a cosmic battle between good and evil (or between religions), it’s God’s battle, and it’s not with earthly foes. Think of the words to “A Mighty Fortress Is our God”. That is not so much a summons to battle as it is a reminder that Christ fights and defeats our ultimate foes….sin, death, and the power of the devil.
2. “Putting on the whole armor of God” is a defensive move, not an offensive move! It’s to allow the church and believers to withstand the evil that we have to deal with in this day and age. Eradicating evil is not in the cards. Here are some helps for sizing-up the armor that is named:
+The belt of truth is fastened so that a faithful ‘soldier’ can ‘move’ unhindered. We have been instructed in 4:15 to be speaking the truth in love.
+The breastplate of righteousness calls to mind how we’ve been ‘clothed’ with Christ’s holiness in Baptism.
+Shoes for your feet are about readiness, as in whatever it takes to be ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
+The shield of faith refers to how God’s saving grace comes to us through faith. Christ dwells in us through faith.
+The helmet of salvation can remind us how we’ve been marked-on our foreheads-with the cross of Christ, forever!
+The sword of the Spirit (the only ‘weapon’ in this list), is actually the Word of God.
3. This armor allows the church and the believer to “stand fast”. This is not to be confused with the new ‘stand your ground’ laws. This is not about doing any harm to a neighbor. It’s about continuing to be and do what God calls the church and believer to be and do! We’re to pray for what we need, in the Spirit; to pray for the message to continue to spread; and to pray for the messengers (Paul, in prison, is asking for prayers!)
4. Paul is not giving instructions for Christians to take over the government, or schools, or Hollywood, or politics. He’s not about establishing a theocracy. This is encouragement to the church to be the ‘salt’ that Jesus talked about while loving our enemies, forgiving over and over again, working for justice, and humbly serving the poor. This is how we and the church ‘stand fast’ in the world as it is.