20080616

Switchblade to a Swordfight

What is the deal with the Armor of God? I mean I’m not saying that it’s bad or anything, none of the Bible is bad, but why is it that we concentrate so much on this one particular thing? I mean honestly, I’ve probably heard more sermons and lessons about the Armor of God than any other portion of Scripture, perhaps besides the crucifixion and the Great Commission. (Of course the latter would be my dad’s fault; there was a time when I was a boy that I could have preached his Great Commission sermon verbatim and saved him the trouble of preaching it again as we visited churches to raise support.)

Anyway, I find it interesting that the Armor of God attracts preachers and teachers to itself on such a regular basis. Although, you do have to admit, it is a good analogy. It even sounds exciting. It just has that ring to it. Strap on that Belt of Truth! Don that Breastplate of Righteousness! Lace up those Gospel boots! Grab that Shield of Faith! And slip that crowning Helmet of Salvation over your head! Now that’s attention-grabbing, face-reddening, pulpit-pounding stuff!

But then, almost as an afterthought: oh yeah, and don’t forget that sword thing, you know, the Word of God? Maybe it will come in handy for something.

You can’t really blame the preachers for this oversight can you? After going on passionately for an hour about the various pieces of armor, by the time they get to the sword they’re just plum tuckered out, so it only gets a passing mention most of the time. Paul put it last on the list anyway, didn’t he? Besides, Christianity is supposed to be a “religion of peace.” Weapons can’t be that important, right?

Wrong, dead wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword’… For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Mt. 10:34; Heb. 4:12)

I think perhaps there is even an underlying motivation behind what we might want to label a simple oversight. Hearing about armor makes us feel safe, and secure. If we’ve got armor, we can safely stay where we are. It keeps us from having to run away scared. If and when we get attacked, having armor means we are protected and, all things considered, even comfortable when those fiery darts come whistling at us. It makes us feel all nice inside, being told we have armor. But a sword, that’s a completely different matter entirely. Those are used for attacking and other such nasty business. They had best be left alone, had they not?

Then we turn around and have the gall to wonder why we’re losing ground in the war for our culture. And make no mistake, it is a war.

Oh, have no doubt; there are the brave souls who try to muster a fight when the hoards of darkness strike. They attempt to make a stand when our religion is ridiculed and our values are assaulted. But using their own words, their comeback has the battle-effectiveness of a letter-opener. The most intelligent and eloquent of us might even manage to muster a switchblade, but they’re bringing a switchblade to a swordfight. These brave ones are easily beaten down as the enemy charges unchallenged through our ranks, not quite so benignly armed. As the few courageous are swallowed up in the swarm, their comrades watch complacently, hiding behind their armor, while everyone leaves our most powerful weapon un-cracked, gathering dust on a shelf.

Don’t get me wrong, we need to know that we have an armor that our God has given us. We should even be thankful for it. But that knowledge should give us a greater peace and courage to be good soldiers, not an excuse to stick our heads in the sand and safely ignore the battle.

Considering that Paul used these ancient tools of war as an analogy for the Christian life, perhaps examining the successful strategies of ancient warfare might help us in this dark hour. There are three things that I think we could afford to learn. First of all, ancient warriors had their swords drawn in times of battle. Scripture is our sword, and it must be the weapon we use when we go into battle. This war will not be won by our own words, no matter how charismatic the speaker, no matter how clever his arguments, no matter how unbreakable his logic. God’s Word alone will stem the tide and bring victory.

Secondly, successful ancient warriors not only had their swords drawn, but they were skilled in their use. The best warriors trained constantly. Their swords were in their hands on a daily basis, even if they weren’t engaged in battle every day. I guarantee you, if a warrior had simply picked up his sword for an hour three times a week, he would not have lived long in battle. Our swords are not meant to be just taken out at church. They’re not even meant to be casually laid on one’s lap in a moment of meditation that quickly leaves the brain. They are weapons meant to be wielded. We must know them like the back of our hand, daily training ourselves in their use. Then we must be ever ready to engage the enemy with them.

Finally, ancient warriors were victorious when they stood together. Phalanxes of troops easily defeated bodies of foes many times their size, even foes much larger and more dangerously armed than themselves. Their unity and coherence as a team on the field of battle made them victors when there seemed to be no hope. It is no secret that the backbone of the most powerful armies of the ancient world was the phalanx, just look at Alexander the Great and the Romans. Jesus himself emphasized the importance of unity. “…any city or house divided against itself shall not stand… keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are…” We must stand together, or there will be no standing at all.

This reasoning begs many questions. Do we have the courage to see Scripture drawn and gleaming in the hands of every Christian in this nation? As God’s warriors, do we have the resolve to be properly trained and ready to make use of our blades, swords more potent than any other weapon imaginable? Do we have the humility to understand that the differences that divide us are insignificant when compared to the ties that bind us, the humility to stand as one in the name of the Savior that unites us all?

The day when each of those questions can be answered in the affirmative will be the day the tide turns. That will be the day when we will have laid aside every encumbrance, and will truly be running the race that is set before us. That is the day I hope, work, and pray for. Hopefully, you can say the same.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Preach it brother...and you know to whom ;)