Putting on the whole armor of God
By Fr. Jonathan Filkins
Dial telephones, 8-track tapes, CRT televisions and other similar devices are as foreign to the more recent generations as are butter churns, coal-fired locomotives and horse-drawn buggies to the older folks among us.
For our future generations, what we know today, shall be as equally antiquated; given the advances of our technologies. Equally prescient, is the unassailable confidence in our ongoing struggle between good and evil. However, while the definition may appear to vacillate with the mores of humankind, the constancy of the Biblical definition remains a constant.
When the Romans had quite enough of the pesky Christians, and their increasingly growing membership, the State felt quite threatened. No longer was this some obscure cult, kept away by distance and dictate. Clearly, the Christian movement was beginning to challenge their official polytheistic religion; with overtones of challenging the divine authority of the Roman Emperor. In a brutal effort to suppress this threat, they arrested many; including Apostle Paul.
Unlike many of our perceptions of pre-1850’s imprisonment, Paul was not shackled in the cellar of some dank, rat-infested stone room; with bread and water slid though a small door. As a Roman Citizen, he was entitled to certain “considerations.” His sequestration was at a villa, outside of Rome. Included, amongst Paul’s privileges, were writing to the various churches under his authority. Today, we have what we know as the “Four Captivity Epistles:” Philemon, Colossians, Galatians and Ephesians.
It is rather easy to equate time with value. In other words, what we perceive before us today, is truer and more valuable than what has been before. While expedient for our rationales, it relies upon a flawed sense of judgment, for this ignores the foundations of truth built in earlier times.
At the villa, we may envision Paul bending over his desk, writing to the church at Ephesus, assuring them of his love and concern. Yet, he is well-aware of the persecutions of his fellow Christian followers and close proximity to the pagan pressures of Rome and Greece. In the sixth chapter of this Epistle to the Ephesians, it would be quite easy for many of us to equate the mental picture, which Paul paints for the Church, as being as unfathomable as our understanding of the construction of the Pyramids.
Yet, in our mind’s eye, we may envision a Roman Centurion standing at the portal, keeping watch over their charge. Paul, clearly an astute observer, uses the armor pieces as metaphors to bolster the Church’s resolve; in spite of the portent of his pending demise. In his treatise, we are told to, “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” He goes on to talk about the “helmet of Salvation; the breastplate of Righteousness; shoes of the Gospel of Peace; the sword of the Spirit.” Paul is not quite done, as he sets the bar on the most necessary protection, “Above all, [take] the shield of Faith, where you shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked.”
It does not take much to equate these examples to our more modern times. Kevlar helmets, body armor, M-16’s, and weapon deflecting footwear easily come to mind. Yet, somehow there is a disconnect which allows us to deflect this sage guidance. We do so at our own peril.
It is not only the mental image we conjure up when we read Scripture but, most importantly, the essential message which is contained on the page. While sometimes arcane to our sensibilities, the core of what is contained is necessary for our Salvation. Let us all be cognizant of the reality of what God seeks for us; to enable all of us to be, with him, in his kingdom, no matter what the age.