Dear Inspiration Seekers,
Ephesians ends with The Armor of God verses (6:10 -18). While these appealed to me when I was in middle school, they seem rather trite after the complexity of the rest of the letter, and now that I am middle aged. The abrupt shift in tone also begs questions about whether Paul wrote Ephesians or at least this section. Maybe Tychicus (6:21) slipped in an extra page before delivering the letter to the churches.
After reading through this section a few times, rather than getting stuck on the questions that came to my mind, I found myself considering the concept of Battle. Paul puts the armor analogy in the context of a Battle between Christians and the Devil. My mind wanders to image of St. George and the Dragon, or maybe Star Wars with the Force and the Dark Side… I find my middle age slipping back into middle school concrete thinking.
To strip off the tangibility of this Battle, I looked to the verses which list the belt, sword, shield, etc. to figure out what the characteristics that Paul advocates using in this Battle. Paul lists, as Armor of God: Truth, Righteousness, Readiness, Faith, Salvation, the Word of God.
Putting these “weapons” in the context of Battle, consider warriors from ancient to modern times who have persevered. The Hebrew scriptures often assert that Israel succeeded in Battle when they believed in a True God rather than false gods. In our history, we believe that the Allied forces in WWII defeated the Nazi and Axis forces because we fought for a Righteous cause of Freedom for Europe and Asia. Though George Washington warned his new nation of the risks of a standing army, western history is full of examples of how nations whose armies let down their guard, thereby lacking Readiness, become targets of opportunistic opponents. A soldier who lacks Faith in his leader’s cause and judgment is sooner a deserter than a scout. A soldier who believes that his Salvation is secured is more likely to charge forward against high odds of earthly death. Armies are rarely filled with volunteers unless the leaders have Words to entice the recruits. Of course, all of these hinge on the first concept of Truth. In this Battle, there are many false gods, claiming Truth, and many armies lining up devotees who will die, literally, without anything more than false words.
After stripping of the tangible images of these abstract elements, I wondered whether this Battle was also an abstraction. Good vs Evil? An internal struggle of each individual between productive and destructive impulses? Adherence to the Law? Then I thought to tally up the Battles already outlined by Paul in Ephesians: Order and Unity vs Disobedience. Prayer and Attention vs Distraction. Experience vs Missed Opportunities. Love and Wrath vs Indifference. Submission and Respect vs Exasperation. Conflict has been present throughout Ephesians. Battle is ever-present.
The question, then, is less whether we are in the Battle, but how to defend ourselves from Disobedience, Distraction, MIssed Opportunities, Indifference, and Exasperation. Maybe this is where the Armor of God comes in. These are the tools that transform us from vulnerability to strength. As a literary tool, analogies function to connect ideas with images that the audience can comprehend and relate to. Truth is not necessarily limited reality. Now if this does not bring us back to Mystery… or, maybe Ovid’s Metamorphosis??.
Until next time, Inspiration Seekers