This passage from Ephesians is one of those common favorites. Building and putting on the armor of God is still a popular activity for children. As a formation tool, it was and remains powerful.
From the point of the Ephesians, they were very familiar with the attire of the Roman soldiers. Ephesus was an important city in the region. The Roman soldiers would be stationed there. With its importance, many military excursions would start and end in Ephesus.
However, while Paul grasped a powerful visual (and, for modern children, a reinforcing activity), it wasn’t complete. As far as Paul was concerned, he delivered what he needed for conveying deep truths to the Ephesians.
Yet, there is still something missing. When I was younger, people often thought I was an “Army brat”. Even to this day, some assume I’m ex-military. Most of this is a childhood affection (with, yes, a lot of military tradition in the family). So, when I look at Paul’s list, I’m a bit bothered.
There are 2 significant pieces that are missing from Paul’s list: the javelin (or bow, depending on the unit) and the kilt. Also, certain Roman ensembles had shin guards, too (that makes 3).
What does that matter, you might ask? The javelin (again, or bow) was used for long-ranged attack; the javelin could also be used as a defensive tool against cavalry. We could use the long-range aspect as a “look ahead” and “be prepared” for what is coming. In other words, don’t just react to the world; be prepared to confront it.
Regarding defense, the javelin would need to be set against the ground to be effective. Again, be ready for what is coming toward you.
The kilt? Other than cultural Scottish attire, it protected the lower area of the body. It may not seem like a kilt could protect much, but much of the strength of the lower body is centered in that area. Wounds would deeply affect effectiveness. From a modesty sense, well, that’s probably obvious. That could represent purity.
Purity in this day and age is hard. Putting on the armor of purity may be more essential than we realize.
The shin guards are a little harder. They do keep you from getting kicked, and they would protect you from ramming your leg into a coffee table (you winced, didn’t you?). So, perhaps we could look at the shin guards at that which protects us (somewhat) from our own stumbling.
There is a fun addition to the helmet. Normally, the helmet was unadorned. However, during parades, the higher one’s rank the crest on the helmet would be brightly colored. Kind of similar to the flames of Pentecost, perhaps?
1) Which armor piece is most significant for you? Why?
2) If you were to choose aspects of the spiritual life that the 3 additional pieces would represent, what would they be? Why?
God, thank you for the vision and wisdom of your servant Paul whose words, inspired by you, guide us today. Amen.