The images coming out of Afghanistan over the last several days are horrific. Twenty years in the making, this shockingly violent and swift take-over of the country by the Taliban is beyond imagination. Our hearts are broken and our fears are multiplied to see how quickly a country can topple to evil once the good has been removed.
This is not a political statement, but a spiritual one. It is no coincidence that today’s lectionary passage teaches us how to gird ourselves in the war against the Evil one. It comes to us on a day when we need to be reminded that when we walk in the armor of God, no tricks of the devil can harm us. Surely we have all experienced the forces of cosmic darkness at some point in our lives. Whether that has come at you in a full attack from someone doing the devil’s bidding, or more subtly in the form of temptation that works in your weakness, the spiritual forces of evil are alive and living in the hearts of humanity.
What can we do? How can we fight back?
Paul dealt with this issue when the church in Ephesus came under attack. The spiritual warfare that he fought involved a campaign of disunity between new Gentile converts and Jewish Christians. Satan brought his power to bear upon the new church when it was in its infancy state in an effort to stop it.
The fact that we are here demonstrates the power God has over ALL of his creation.
Paul counsels us to engage in a two-part plan. The first part is to be strengthened by the Lord:
Ephesians 6 (Common English Bible)
10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength.
This is an invitation to join a spiritual boot camp where your faith muscles will be made stronger with every workout. You can’t put great armor on a weak body and hope to have military success. So first, we are to come into God’s presence daily and draw our strength from him.
Next, we are encouraged to suit up for the battle:
11 Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. 12 We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens.
Paul reminds us that we aren’t fighting against flesh, but rather against the spiritual forces of wickedness. So we must protect and grow our own spirit in order to fight back. God provides both the strength and armor:
13 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. 14 So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, 15 and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. 16 Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
The belt of TRUTH.
The breastplate of JUSTICE.
The shoes of PEACE.
The shield of FAITH.
The helmet of SALVATION.
The sword of GOD’S WORD.
As you prepare to go into battle today, look over this list. Do you see a weak spot? Do you need to readjust your armor? Do you need more time in God’s presence?
Stand your ground, and after you have done everything possible, STILL STAND.
May God be with us in our fight.