A police officer needs his badge. A scientist needs her lab coat. A carpenter needs his toolbelt. A farmer needs her overalls.
A soldier needs his armor.
Without the proper attire and gear, we are unfit to do the jobs we set out to do. Badges give identity and authority. Lab coats separate the lab from the outside world. Toolbelts allow for handy access to hammers, nails, squares, etc. Overalls keep mud and…other things…off a person. Armor protects and preserves a soldier as he fights the enemy. All of these examples of tools and clothing bring specific images to our minds. We can picture a cop with his badge, or a farmer in her overalls, or a soldier in his armor. Paul – author of the book of Ephesians, a letter to the people in Ephesus – was counting on such visualization with his metaphor the “armor of God:”
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish 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.” (Ephesians 6:10-17, NIV)
Ephesus was included in the Roman Empire at the time Paul wrote his letter (AD 61-63). No doubt the Ephesians were familiar with Roman soldiers bedecked in their armor and holding shields nearly three and a half feet tall. Paul compares a soldier’s belt, breastplate, properly clad feet, shield, sword, and helmet to attributes a Christian should have. Every day, when Christians wake up and exchange pajamas for whatever we plan to wear physically, we should also strap on our armor, pick up our shields and swords, and brace ourselves to wage spiritual warfare.
“The Armor of God” is a lesson I’m currently teaching fourth through sixth-graders in Sunday School. In a great attempt to make class more fun, I often incorporate games, crafts, and media such as pictures and videos. While looking for a video on the effects of brain trauma to explain the importance of wearing a helmet, I came across this video with the provocative title, “Permanent Hell: Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury.” (Step Back Think, 2012).
In this video, Professor Andrew H. Kaye, Director of the Department of Neurosurgery at Royal Melbourne Hospital, describes, in rather simple terms, what happens to the brain when it is violently jarred and injured. The consequences escalate in severity to the point of irreversible damage and a body left in a vegetative state. I will not comment one way or the other about whether death would be a more merciful outcome than an existence marked only by biological signs of life. But I will comment that an existence marked only by biological signs of a life – a “living hell,” as Professor Kaye calls it – is a glorious existence compared to one in the true Hell.
I thought this video was not entirely appropriate for little eyes and ears, but I could not pass up the analogy to be made. Paul’s description of the armor of God includes the helmet of salvation. Salvation! What a wonderful thing it is to be spared the punishment for our sins because Jesus already took it upon Himself. When we tear down the thrones we have set up for ourselves and turn instead to God as our king, and when we believe that Jesus’ resurrection for the dead means a resurrection for us one day, we attain salvation:
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9, NIV)
A heavenly helmet deflects the strikes of the enemy, no matter how forcefully they bring temptations and trials against us. No matter if we sometimes stumble in our soldierly march; salvation cannot be taken from us.
“The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” (Revelation 3:5, NIV)
While on this earth, Christians must strap on our armor, pick up our shields, and grip our swords tightly as we go about their daily lives as police officers, scientists, carpenters, farmers, or whatever role God has given to us because we definitely need it. Salvation gives us the hope of Heaven while we endure the realities of earth. After all, armor is meant to risk likelihood of injury on the battlefield, but it doesn’t guarantee escape from harm.
Armor of all sorts – Kevlar vests, bump caps, seatbelts, vaccinations – is meant to protect the physical body from harm. But despite the protections these innovations provide, we all still face mortality. Do you wear the helmet of salvation? Do you have the hope of eternal life? Life may seem difficult even if one is not in a permanent vegetative state, but any life is sweeter than an eternity of Hell. On the other hand, every life – no matter if it is filled daily with chocolate-covered rainbows – is nothing compared with an eternity of Heaven!
Step Back Think. (August 14, 2012). Permanent Hell: Life with a Traumatic Brain Injury. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0xuJtVVK8A&list=PLQewEnIEteAKgzY_3iqee7mO9UZPjuyr4&t=0s&index=9