So there’s this section I’ve never liked in the bible, where it says to “put on the whole armour of God”. It’s in the book called Ephesians, Chapter 6.
That phrase sounds so militaristic, patriarchal and out-dated.
It makes you think that anyone who believes the bible aligns self-righteously with the Crusade of the moment. Pictures flash to mind of fundamentalists holding up signs that say “God hates gays”. Horrible. In fact such war is neither biblical nor Christian. More fighting is just what we don’t need.
Most of us today find it more enlivening to think of our connection with God through metaphors like Christ as a Divine Parent welcoming home a wayward child, or as a Divine Artist creating breathtaking beauty even out of refuse, or as a Divine Therapist who accepts us as we are and listens us into healing. Who wants to lug shields and helmets? It’s way more fun to dance through life filled with joy and peace.
Even more so for modern spiritual seekers who don’t hold Christian beliefs, the metaphor of spiritual warriors is off-putting. They are drawn instead to messages like “Everything’s fine and you’re fine just the way you are”, or “You control your own destiny” or “the universe is unfolding as it should”.
Partly true, but tell that to my neighbour whose husband just died. Tell it to a diabetic eight year old girl I know, who gets bullied at school. Tell it to my friend who’s fighting terminal cancer while his wife is pregnant with twins.
Instead of interpreting this biblical advice to put on the armour of God as an outdated military image, I'm seeing the usefulness of donning my spiritual armour against the destructive forces that are part of life. If we are fearless enough to look clear-eyed at the evil of selling girls for men’s abusive entertainment, to look at the outrageous injustice of our engorged malls at Christmas while Ethiopian parents are comforting their children dying from starvation, then we know that there is an attacker called evil. Evil tries to numb us with addictions, tempts us to ignorance and blind optimism, offers false gods like wealth and power that we worship by stepping on the weak and poor.
In fact I do believe in the God I described in paragraph II above. I count on the presence of a God who loves us even better than I can love my grandchildren. I believe that God interacts with us as individuals, and faithfully companions us through life whether we recognize God or not. And I agree with the character in “The Colour Purple” who stands in awe amidst a field of purple wildflowers imagining God’s frustration when we don’t notice Her exquisite gifts in Nature. There is so much fun and love and beauty in life that one can choose to see one’s glass as half full.
But that is not an answer for the other half of glassy reality.
I don’t know about you, but I need the protective armour described in this ancient letter from Paul to the people in Ephesus: a weight-lifter’s belt of truth, a corset of justice, and work boots made from peace.
There are moments when I must hold a shield of faith instead of falling under evil arrows of hopelessness and helplessness.
I want to stand firm, not looking for a fight with human enemies but equipped to resist what would destroy.
Now if someone would just help me get this stuff on.