Using God’s armor, Stand against the forces of evil
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For 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. 13Therefore 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. 14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18Pray 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.
None of us has the strength on our own to live as the Lord would have us live. But he will give us the strength, if we rely on him, stay focused in him! The author uses a new metaphor here – seeing the strength of God as armor in our fight with the devil. For, he says, our struggle is not against human enemies, but against the cosmic powers of darkness, forces of evil. Today, we certainly see the forces of evil all around us – not in a single ideology, or direction, but in an epidemic of violence. In Paris, in Texas, and now in San Bernardino – anyone who wishes to get attention does so by trying to surpass the previous horror. We live in an atmosphere of hate and fear, and striking out with violence is one response to that. These violent forces are not just ISIS, though it is included; they also include politicians who feed hate, businesses who make money off hate; and poor, isolated and angry individuals who take their hate out on others. The forces of violent evil encompass all that is evil. And we cannot fight the cosmic forces of evil with more violence – perhaps contain some of them, such as ISIS, but we won’t win the battle using their tactics.
No – the battle will only be won using the “weapons” and “armor” suggested by the author of Ephesians: we stand, having put on the belt of truth, and the breastplate of righteousness (Let me remind you again that “truth” is not “my truth” or “your truth” but God’s truth, found in Christ’s love, and that righteousness is not “self-righteousness” but true righteousness, being like Christ). On our feet should be our walking shoes, those that make us ready to proclaim our Lord, and his gospel of peace! With these, take up the shield of faith – for the forces of evil will surely fire their burning arrows, and only faith can protect us! Take the helmet of salvation – remembering that we are not an exclusive club; God offers salvation to all! And take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Remember, Word of God includes, but is not limited to, the Scriptures. The Word of God was first of all Jesus Christ. Pray at all times, allowing the Spirit to help and to be a part of your prayer. And finally, keep alert and persevere in praying for one another (“saints” is simply other believers).
Such weapons and armor seem small and impotent in the face of great evil, but they are the only things strong enough to defeat it. Remember the response of the people in South Carolina? It was their faith and forgiveness that made an impact on the world! Today, let us keep the people of San Bernardino in our prayers!