Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Today, it’s just been on my mind to bring our attention back to the armor of God and the fact we need to be wise like serpents, innocent as doves.
I want to speak to the first part, being wise like serpents. Going to Malta helped bring to my attention how much I don’t know about my own country’s politics, the refugee crisis, trusting God, and even God’s word. I feel like I’m doing “better than the average U.S. citizen.” But, in reality, I don’t know very much. And I’ve realized when it comes to engaging in conversation with others, it’s important to have a handle on topics like these.
I.e., talking with my dad about refugees. Having facts and knowing the what the constitution says helps me to better articulate and defend my stance culturally and based by our country’s laws. Knowing about the situation with refugees abroad also helps and is a tool in dispelling the fear which the current administration seems to use to get support to make the calls it’s trying to make both about refugees and immigrants in general.
The second part, being innocent like doves…that’s a hard one for me because I’ve thought in the past it means to be naive. I don’t want to be naïve. But being innocent doesn’t mean you’re naïve. I think it means we guard our hearts and take our thoughts captive. What we put into our minds affects the lens through which we see the world and view the Bible—and it has the power to jade us.
I.e., rape. I know rape is in the world. I know it is destructive. I’ve seen it damage lives. And I’ve seen God redeem. But, what I don’t need to do is read the part of a book or watch a TV series which details a situation of rape. I don’t need to invite that in my mind to “know” about rape. I’m thinking of a book one of my youth group girls was reading. I haven’t read it, but I see how she struggles with her sexuality, her relationship with God, and for a period even suicide. I also see how her parents are okay with exposing her to things that are a bit mature for her age.
Compared to another one of our girls who is aware of what happens in the world, but her parents are careful to protect her from exposure to things which are dark, damaging, fracture her relationship with God. She’s being taught to be innocent, not naïve (or judgmental), and to take her thoughts captive.
Both of these girls come from solid Christian homes. I can’t say for sure that what each of these girls has or hasn’t been exposed to has been the big factor in who they are today, but I think it’s clear it has played a role. No barely 12-year-old girl should be reading intimate details about sex or rape. And while I may think not allowing your 12-year-old to watch Harry Potter could be a little excessive, I see how this other young girl is being shaped to cast her thoughts on what is good and to pursue God in all things.
Which leads me to the Armor of God. If we are sheep among wolves, if we are God’s people aware of the spiritual battle around us, we need the armor of God. We need our faith, especially when we don’t have answers to why God is still good in hard situations, but know that he is. We need the encouragement of salvation when doubt comes into our minds if we are truly loved by God. We need to know the scriptures, not just where to find them in the Bible, but to really be so in-tuned we can recite them when necessary. We need the breastplate of righteousness because frankly, the world is watching.
And with the armor of God and I think it’s important to ask, do we believe in spiritual warfare? Do we believe the world we live in isn’t just made up of cold, hard facts or only what we can see?
When I was talking about spiritual warfare with my friend who’s in Ecuador, she mentioned how we leave ourselves open to it. Every morning we can either be aware that it’s there and pray, or we can disregard it and leave ourselves open. Praying against spiritual warfare isn’t just for the days when we can sense it, but even when we don’t suspect it.
With all of this said, I want to encourage each of us to really grab hold of the scriptures, of God, and for what it means to put on God’s armor as well as to be wise like serpents, but innocent as doves.