April 24, 2020

Borrowed Trouble: The Art of Getting Bitten by Dogs

I don’t have to tell you that social media has become a potentially ugly place. There are many issues which divide us, and emotions run hot far too much of the time. Now I have to admit that I have been guilty of this as well. Many are the times when I have posted some article, typically political in nature, which had lit the fires of anger within me.  But I have wised up and cut back on such posts.

I had to, for my own sanity.
Image by GemmaRay23 from Pixabay 

Once upon a time, Facebook (my primary social media app) was a fun place to go online. You had a wall where you could post pieces of flair (yes that was a long time ago), you could share funny pictures, and you could update your friends on what was going on in your life. Now to be fair, you can still do most of these things (I think the flair app is no more, alas), but Facebook took a turn for the worse when they introduced an integrated News Feed.

We all know what it has turned into today. Everywhere you turn, there’s a negative or inflammatory article, an angry rant, or everyone’s favorite, some fake news. I have friends on both sides of the political aisle, and I can assure you that both sides are equally guilty of all the bad things.

Angry, profanity-ridden rants? Both sides.
Negative, divisive opinion pieces? Both sides.
Fake news? Both sides.
Unnecessarily hostile attitudes? Let me assure you, this too is coming from both sides.


April 23, 2020

The Final Cut (The Armor, part 18)

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning…

And so we arrive at the final lesson in this series. Not that we have uncovered all that there is to learn from the Whole Armor of God, but all projects must come to an end. It is fitting that the Sword of the Spirit represents the Word of God, for we are able to finish this study where it began: with Jesus Christ.

Photo by Søren Niedziella, edited for use here.
You may recall that the first item of the armor, the Belt of Truth, works to reveal the truth of Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior. As mentioned previously, the Sword of the Spirit, as the Word of God, also represents Christ, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Whether by intent or serendipity (or by divine intervention), Paul frames this entire list of items in a way which echoes the following words recorded by John…

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

How do we use this final piece of the Armor of God? What would it mean to put on the Sword of the Spirit? Can one wield Jesus Christ as a weapon? Could we turn the Messiah into an implement of war?

April 19, 2020

Close Quarters Combat (The Armor, part 17)

I have never seen (nor do I wish to see) an exorcism. What I have seen, and perhaps you have seen them as well, are cinematic portrayals of exorcisms in movies and on TV. Linda Blair’s stunning scene from The Exorcist (1973) remains one of the most dramatic and terrifying scenes of spiritual warfare in cinematic history. While I know little about whether the movie portrayed such an event accurately, I am certain that such combat in our daily lives is always up-close, personal, and dangerous. There truly is no such thing as safe, long-distance spiritual warfare.

Photo by Matthias Kabel
The same could be said of combat as experienced by Roman legionnaires of the first century. Heavily armored and wielding large protective shields, Roman soldiers required a weapon which could be easily wielded in one hand. While spears and javelins were certainly used by the Romans in conjunction with their large shields, Paul mentions only one weapon in his references to the Whole Armor of God: the Sword of the Spirit. The sword wielded by the typical Roman soldier of the era would have been the gladius, a short sword with a blade approximately two feet in length. The length and weight of the gladius complemented the use of the scutum, the large shield commonly in use during the first century.

Many commentators have found it curious that a weapon should be included as belonging to a set of armor. In our modern culture, the two seem to belong to different categories. Armor is typically thought of as being any worn item which is primarily defensive in nature, while something which is used to attack the enemy would be categorized as a weapon. However, the Latin root word arma literally means “tools or implements of war” and technically applies to both modern categories of armor and weapons. Similarly, the Greek word Paul actually uses, panoplia, also refers to armor and weapons collectively. Thus, it is not incorrect to include the Sword of the Spirit as part of a set of armor.

A short sword such as the gladius is designed specifically to be easily maneuvered in close-quarters combat. Both Paul and his original readers would have known this. They would also have appreciated the resulting implication that spiritual warfare is a deeply personal thing. One cannot engage in spiritual warfare from a distance. There are no snipers among prayer warriors, only infantrymen.