I don't know much about ordinary armor...let alone have I actually ever worn it myself. So when it came time to do a deep dive on the text for this weekend, a text where St. Paul encourages us to "put on the full armor of God" (6:11) I thought I would enlist the help of my friend (and Trinity church memnber) Daniel Mehaffey. Daniel takes part in the Society of Creative Anachronism. He is more familiar with armor from the Late Medieval Period in Europe than with first-century armor but I think his insights into the essentials of armor still bring us a little deeper into St. Paul's world.
Here are a few things I learned: 1) Though we might not tend to think about footwear as an important component to battle gear, having the right kind is absolutely essential. A warrior must be able to maintain his footing in different kinds of terrain, otherwise he will slip and give the enemy a deadly advantage! No surprise then, that St. Paul points out the advantage of "gospel of peace" so that the man or woman of God might be able to "stand" (6:14). 2) When you wear armor you gradually unlearn some your more natural instincts or automatic responses in self-defense. For example, the natural inclination to cover your face with your shield when under attack is gradually resisted as you learn to trust the protective qualities of your helmet. Using your shield to cover your face will not only obstruct your vision but expose vital organs to injury. I'm intrigued by what this has to say about the relationship between what St. Paul identifies as our "helmet" (salvation) and our "shield" (faith). 3) Contrary to what most of us might think, there is diminishing return to armor that becomes thicker and more impenetrable. The freedom of movement and comfort of the one wearing the armor must also be taken into account. The warrior must not be weighed down but stay alert and be ready to act (the Greek in 6:18 literally means "sleep out in the open") so that he may spring into action, when needed. For St. Paul, such freedom of movement was born out of the prayer of those who had put on the armor of God that he, Paul, might be faithful in the fight and make known the mystery of the gospel with boldness (6:19).
How powerless in the face of the Enemy we would all be without God's armor! Yet how sufficient are the gifts of God to enable us to stand and claim the victory that Jesus has won for us! Though in the heat of battle we often want to go it alone, Jesus has won the victory...he supplies all we need to stand. As you begin a new school year...a new personal challenge at home or at work...or as you confront any trial at all where the enemy seems to be the "flesh and blood" person you see rather than the Enemy you can't, take heart that the Victor has won the war and gives you all you need to withstand the heat of battle. No matter what may be lost in the battle the Enemy cannot win. "The Kingdom's ours forever!" ("A Mighty Fortress," LSB 657)