What I’m Thinking: Armor for the Spirit Only

Ephesians 6 describes “the whole armor of God.” Should we take it to endorse the use of violence for Christian purposes? Spoiler alert: Absolutely not.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the sixth chapter of Ephesians (Ephesians 6:10-20), the advice to put on “the whole armor of God.”

This is not my favorite passage of Scripture. The directive to put on “armor” of virtue has all too often been translated into the directive to put on literal armor and in this armor to carry out crusades “in the name of Christ” that inflict harm on other people. The Christian crusades that we think of most of the time are those carried out against Muslim peoples in the Middle East, but crusades were carried out over and over and over again against those with whom the leadership disagreed – on theological matters, things that ought to have been debated and discussed, not greeted with violence. Christian crusades were carried out against Jews over and over and over again. Christian crusades were carried out against Protestants by Catholics and against Catholics by Protestants.

There is nothing Christian about a crusade.

It’s also rather blasphemous, I think, to read this passage as endorsing actual war. The virtues that are attributed to these various articles of armor are virtues that, while they may be of use in war are of far more use in peace. Truth has its use in war, but deception probably more so. Righteousness? Well, that’s not a bad attribute for a soldier, but what soldier has any great use for shoes that equip them to proclaim the gospel of peace?

No, this is not a directive to carry out violence. This is, in fact, advice to refrain from violence.

It’s also very clearly placed in a context of spiritual struggle, of trying to live by the guidelines and directives of this emerging Christianity despite the fact that the ways of the world are very, very different. I really wish our author had not chosen the emblems of violence when endorsing a gospel of peace.

Well.

I think the virtues still apply: Truth, righteousness, peace, and most of all, that reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

So do put on the whole armor of God but do not mistake it for the armor that protects you from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Know that this is the armor that carries you through the spiritual challenges of our lives, and that this is what brings us closer to a sound relationship with our God.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , , | Posted on August 16, 2021

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1 Comment

  1. by Janet

    On August 16, 2021

    I agree with you a hundred percent. At the same time, I am wondering what kind of letters I would write if I were imprisoned.

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