When I was growin' up, I remember a cassette tape that I found layin' around. It was "Stryper: Soldiers Under Command". As a teenager, both early and late teens, I was like "heck yah, SOLDIERS!!!" I was all about arming myself for the "Lord's Army" and kickin' some satanic butt with my sword and shield and all that.
Now, I'm still a Stryper fan, but I've learned a bit more about the words and imagery used throughout scripture. About the character of God/Jesus, and how it contrasts our own nature so much.
You've heard the verses before, Ephesians 6:14-20. So often, people take these texts and use them to promote a sort of "battle" mindset where we must be strong and on the offensive, ready to attack any evil thing with our sword. Maybe even, secretly, there are many who would like to think they're "training" the army that will fight in some literal battle in the valley of Megiddo.
While we can't deny the usage of some battle imagery in the next of Ephesians, we can be honest about what we know of Christ, and the message He was brining about the Kingdom. It seems that more often than not, Christ was involved in saying things like, "you've heard this, now I say this......." kinda stuff. Basically taking things they know (or think they know), and revealing how these things are in the Kingdom.
It seems that is what Paul is doing here. He takes something they know (imagery of a Roman soldier preparing for battle), and revealing something about the Kingdom. No longer is it about power, and might, and battles. He says, "yes, you will need armor, but it will be Truth. It will be Righteousness. It will be Peace. It will be Faith. It will be salvation from God." And even these, he simply associates with defensive type preparations (belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet). The only time he even gives a "weapon" if you want to call it that, is when he mentions the Spirit of God (His word, the "sword").
Funny how we would take Paul/Christ telling us "it's not about battle and warfare like you've ever known", and turn it into actually preparing for a war as we know it, simpy armed with different weaponry.
Too many times people take the verse - "our struggle is not with flesh and blood...etc" and say "that's right, it's against the evil spirits found in our enemies flesh and blood." Nope.
The Kingdom is not about training the next generation of "Holy Soldiers" to fight and/or take over this world in the name of Christ. It's about raising the next generation of Christ-followers. Young men and women who will speak Truth. Who will give up themselves in Love for others. Who will do what it takes to bring the message of Peace, and Good news to all creation. Who will depend more upon the Spirit of God to make all things new...
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