Earlier this week, we looked at the “armor of God” from Ephesians 6. During the discussion, the armor was characterized as the “weapons of our warfare.” This characterization struck me as interesting and possibly out of place as the passage nowhere uses the terms war or warfare. It does, however, use terms such as schemes, struggles and peace–at least in the NIV 1984. What this suggests to me is that this passage about armor is less about the active and open conflict with evil or Satan and more about our stability and stamina in the midst of evil and the victim of schemes and violence.
Anyone familiar with role-playing games, might be able to see that what is described can be seen as more complex than just a simple set of armor and a weapon. It can be read more like a recommended character sheet for the reader. There are the familiar armor sets of truth, righteousness, faith and salvation as well as the one-handed weapon of the Word of God. Additionally, there are character stats of strength (“be strong”), stamina (“stand firm”) and initiative (“be alert”). Lastly, there are the buffs of readiness (+ to initiative) that comes from “the gospel of peace” and fearlessness (+ to stamina).
So if we are like this character, equipped, buffed and ready to roll, what are our abilities? What are asked to do? Interestingly enough, there are two instructions for this equipped believer and they are neither aggressive or offensive. The first is to pray and the second is to keep on praying. I don’t get the impression from that passages that the reader is to take up arms and go to battle like an invading army, but to stand guard. Are we to go to battle against governments to legislate righteousness, religion or indoctrination? No. We are to pray.
In looking elsewhere in Paul’s letters and the New Testament we more instructions to pray and “live in peace” than to be confrontational. Our obligation is to act and behave as motivated by faith rather than fear. To speak truth rather than deceit. To show love rather than hate, even to our perceived and real human enemies.
Given the various descriptions of spiritual conflict in the Scriptures, perhaps we don’t actually have to “fight” against Satan but recognize the love, hope, strength and stability that we have in God. Then the lies or “attacks” of Satan become nothing more than the small sound of darts colliding uselessly against the armor of truth. In light of this truth those attacks as ineffective as hurling a stone against a battleship.
Be strong. Be alert. Be fearless.
Stand guard. Stand firm. Stand ready.
Pray and keep on praying.