Sharpening and Armor

Matthew 15:10–20, Luke 6:39–42, Ephesians 6:12–18

In our current political and cultural climate, there are plenty of sharp barbs being thrown out. If we wanted to, we could say flaming arrows, which is metaphorically accurate. It’s pretty nuts, and certainly unloving, unpeaceful, impatient (i.e, doesn’t bear), unkind, bad (i.e., not good), unfaithful, ungentle, and lacks a lot of self-control (see Galatians 5:22–23, for what it should be). The sad part? That’s what we see from Christians. Christians are placing themselves firmly in the world on one “side” of the (left/right) political aisle. It’s very sad.

While much of it is happening over social media (written), it really is more akin to speech (i.e., coming out their/our mouths). Jesus calls us to task, saying that these words are coming out from our hearts. Ouch! What you write on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or what you “like” comes from your heart? What does that tell you about what is inside your heart? What about that question that you posed about the other “side” of the political aisle? Was it honesty inquiry, or was it spite-filled rhetoric?

It is so, so very easy to respond. It makes us feel better. Yet, is that the right response? Sadly, the rush (and rash) response is not conducive to sharpening one another. It actually hardens hearts for all involved. How is this living a Christ-filled, -following, -honoring life?

Of course, the problem often is that those that need to hear and take the lesson to heart will often use the splinter and plank story to justify disregarding the lesson. There is some wisdom in that. This is why both of these parables should be taken as a pair, to prevent either from being taken too far, one way or the other. The other necessary part of this is community, true community (i.e., not Facebook). Facebook and other social mediums are quick to call their platforms a community, but community is only formed when doing life together continually, not just highlights.

Often the reason we respond the way we do is that we feel threatened. This is where the final tool in this comes out. The Full Armor of God passage can be used in many ways. Why not take it a different way? “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full clothing of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like a strong shirt on your chest, and your feet booted with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take up the gloves of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the hat of salvation and the book of the Spirit—which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:12-18 (CSB with Ian’s revisions).

We are so accustomed to the war-like clothing that Paul is talking about that we can miss the intimacy of it all. Changing the armor to something we actually wear these days—rather than what the Ephesians were accustomed—may help you better understand the Armor of God. The pieces may be different but have the same result. Imagine as you are putting on your shirt saying, “I am putting on God’s righteousness.” As you put a belt on saying, “I am putting God’s Truth on.” Gloves may not work when it’s not Winter, so choose something else. The Full Armor of God is an allegory. Reframe it in modern terms to help you when you feel attacked, or even better, feel “armored-up” before you walk out the door.

1) When you trust the armor-maker (yes, armorer), can you calmly trust the armor to take the hit for you? Do you?

2) How should you respond when someone attacks (whether actual or perceived) a firmly held belief? Do you?

3) How do you handle people when they honestly come to a different conclusion on what the Scriptures say than you do? What happens when the resulting behavior from those different conclusions appears to be in conflict?