“Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11
Whenever I read this passage, I think of teenager David before he became king, trying to put on Saul’s armor so he could go fight the giant Goliath. The armor was so heavy that it weighed him down, so he discarded it, grabbed his sling shot and went out to defeat the arrogant Philistine (see 1 Samuel 17). David used his own strength, knowledge, and skill to bring down Goliath because he didn’t need to be “another Saul” but needed to be himself with his own gifts.
In this letter to the Ephesians, the writer is instructing the folks in Ephesus, as well as us, to PUT ON the armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes that help us proclaim the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is God’s word. Of course, these are symbolic for the ways in which we need to “arm” ourselves in order to live in the world. The call to live counter-culturally is a difficult one because we have chosen to follow in the ways of God through the example of Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit.
Yet, it is so easy to succumb to the temptations and lures of the world. One of my colleagues used to end his worship services by reminding his congregation to put on the whole armor of God as they went into the world to serve. It was a serious reminder that they had work to do as disciples of Jesus Christ, and it was a way of encouraging them in the fight to life as faithfully as they possibly could.
Unfortunately, there is always a chink, a clank, a clunk in our armor. It may even be something we don’t realize we are doing, lack of willpower, bad habits we haven’t broken, choosing words that don’t reflect who we are or Whose we are, or any number of things that can pull the armor off. We aren’t perfect, after all. We are human beings who are sinners and who are offered the amazing grace of God in our lives through forgiveness and salvation.
When the armor falls away, we have a second, third, fourth, and endless opportunity to start again. Recovery is ours. We can move on from there. Wearing the armor of God doesn’t have to be a burden. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30) Jesus has walked this road of humanity and knows what it’s like to be tempted, taunted, and tantalized. His armor didn’t appear to have any chinks, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t understand the human condition. He’s lived it! He knows what we go through.
Wearing the armor of God is easy because we aren’t alone on the journey – we have the Spirit and a whole bunch of fellow armor-wearers walking with us. God sends companions to help pick us up when we are down and to encourage us as we travel through this life. My parents have been like that for me. I made plenty of mistakes and bad decisions as an adult, but Mom and Dad continued to say, “We may not always agree with your decisions, but we’ll support you the best we can, and we’re proud of you.” That’s a gift they gave me all through my life. When I clunked on forgetting my shoes of peace, they would help me find ways to resolve my anger and frustration and put those shoes back on. Clanking and losing the sword of the Spirit meant that I was negligent in reading the word of God and studying it. They would encourage me to try again. The chink in my breastplate of righteousness (or right living) brought a reminder that I knew the right thing to do, and they believed I would get back on track.
I wasn’t a difficult child, but I was terribly naive (probably still am in some ways). My husband thinks that actually helps me keep my armor on better. I’m not so sure. Regardless, Mom and Dad (and my husband now) have been great examples even with their own chinks, clanks, and clunks. No one says we won’t make mistakes. God certainly knows that! What we need to do is learn how to wear the armor and catch the chink, clank, clunks when they start to happen. That equips us to face the “slings and arrows” of the world and opens ways for us to face adversity, challenges, frustrations, and difficulties in our lives because we wear God’s armor. We each have an armor that is designed especially to fit us and is light enough for each of us to wear.
God doesn’t ask us to go make disciples and live as God’s children in the world and then leaves us “out there” without help. I hope we all can claim our armor, wear it with joy, and know that we have God and our Christians companions on this journey to help us along the way. God bless your week!