“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.” (Ephesians 6:10)
When I was growing up, there was question as to whether children needed kindergarten. I remember having toys around me that prompted the learning of numbers and letters. And knowing my mother, she made sure that learning numbers and letters was a natural part of my days of play as did her peers. I know I did the same thing with my children – as did my peers. So the question of whether kindergarten was needed was quite pertinent.
Then there was the question as to whether preschool was needed. Again, for the same reasons. It was seen as a “heads up” so that once a child started kindergarten numbers and letters were familiar to them, as were the basic animals that shared our globe. But, was that needed?
Now, you might be wondering where I am going with this. Paul tells his readers (finally) to be strong in the Lord and in the power of the Lord. He has spent good chunks of his letter to them outlining and extolling the Christian life, and instructing them how to live it out. Paul talks about complex relationships, and how to live in families and in community displaying a commitment to authentic Christianity. Not lessons for new believers, but good advice for mature Christians. Yet here in this last passage of his letter, he speaks of beginning concepts and advise more suited to novices in the faith.
“Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Verses 11 – 12)
It just seems to me this is such a shift from the earlier portion of the letter, where Paul commends their faith and advises them to live it out. And yet here we have such simple teaching. I remember this as a Sunday School lesson; indeed it lends itself to that and a crafting of the actual pieces of the armor (out of paper) so that children might understand it.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Verses 13 – 17)
These concepts of truth, righteousness, proclaiming, faith, salvation, and the Word of God are the building blocks of Christianity and the Christian life. Why then this metaphor that is so visual and basic? After he has presented this living image of a soldier for Christ (I also have a problem with the military imagery here) he moves again to more adult themes.
“Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.” (Verses 18 – 20)
One of my jobs early in my working career was a preschool teacher. We were tasked with taking children just two & a half to three years old, and “preparing” them for kindergarten. I tell you, beloved reader, working with these children day in and out you forget how comparatively young they are. We, as teachers, expected too much from them. We demanded sensibilities from them at an age that they had barely experienced the world. Because there were so many of them and so few of us (comparatively) we needed absolute discipline from them. And we didn’t get it!
So I am sensitive to the levels of Christian understanding, and expecting more insight than would be feasible when only being young in the faith. But I also recognize and appreciate the maturity you find in seasoned Christians, and seek to give them teaching and guidance that is appropriate to their spiritual understanding.
I hope and pray that in all I write you, beloved reader, have found what you need to live out the faith life that the Divine has called you to. Shalom & Selah!