“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” Eph 6:10-11.
Once, whilst serving as a missionary in a small Australian country town in the far north; I had the privilege to teach a hundred Aboriginal children the Armour of God. I lined them up like soldiers and had them act out movements for each piece of the armour. When I shouted ‘Sheilds of Faith’ they would step forward presenting their right arm up. When I shouted ‘Breastplate of Righteousness’ the would take their hand and confidently wipe it down their chests. The children loved it. Children want to be soldiers.
The Apostle Paul writes in a time few of us can relate to. A time of political unrest and the Empire’s domination. When the might and glory of Rome was visible. Centurions led Roman soldiers through the streets, mingled in markets or openly crucified people you once knew. The imagery Paul draws from is firmly in his readers minds; its an occurrence in their day to day lives. Yet these armoured soldiers are far from their deliverers, rather more often than not counted as their oppressors. A symbol of fear, persecution and totalitarian control.
In the midst of such Paul tells a small rag tag group of new believers to borrow from such imagery and embrace it in their minds as their standing In Christ. To put on His power in defence of the most powerful assailant on earth – the Devil himself.
Yet we are not to wage a war of assault with such power, but rather be protected against the assault in our minds and as it manifests itself into the physical. How often we can doubt our salvation, and forget a Centurion’s helmet firmly fitted to protect from the blow of a sword. Our faith wavers in suffering or insult and yet the Roman Legion’s most powerful defence was in its neck to foot interlocking shields.
We question Christ’s love or at times even His very existence and forget the thick leather belt girding the soldier’s waist.
Wood (1978) writes “The belt tied tightly around the waist indicated that the soldier was prepared for action. To slacken the belt was to go off duty. The “belt” was not an ornament but served an essential purpose. It gathered in the short tunic and helped keep the breastplate in place when the latter was fitted on. From it hung the scabbard in which the sword was sheathed’
Truth – holding on to the one that proclaimed ” I AM THE TRUTH”.
Each component of the Armour of God is obviously symbolic, a metaphor that points more to the terms they represent – SALVATION, FAITH, RIGHTEOUSNESS, TRUTH, GOD’s WORD and PEACE. Rather than turn the symbolic into the reality (as children initally do), draw from the meaning it protrays.
When the world is against us; it is the individual terms that we draw protection from, not the metaphorical symbols. However, attach the individual terms to your soul as if they were indeed the Centurion’s Armour and then – doubt, insecurity and fear will find these symbols impossible to dislodge.