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We are called to ‘suit up,’ to volunteer, to work for social justice

Christians are called in Ephesians 6:10-20 to “suit up,” to put on the armor that God gives, because “we are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.” 

The letter to the church at Ephesus contains exhortations to live transformed lives, setting aside selfishness and taking on godly righteousness and holiness. Christian individuals, households and communities become moral examples, living in love, forgiveness and thankfulness. Early Christians knew the struggle to live peacefully under Roman military might. Paul’s call was to resist the urge to fight, but instead to live a life of peace.

If living peacefully was the goal, why does Paul use a metaphor of battle? It’s because the Ephesians would recognize each piece of armor and its use. In their context, war language made sense.

For us in 2015, a different image is called for.

 For the last few weeks, we have watched as wildfires claw their way across the Pacific Northwest, wreaking havoc in our beautiful wilderness areas and causing devastation in cities and towns. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose everything I owned, and yet that loss is nothing compared to the tragic loss of life.

As Christians, we occupy a position of “already and not yet.” I’ve never liked the saying, “It’s all good.” Frankly, a lot of things are NOT all good, and much is really, really bad.

Young black men and trans women are being killed every day. Our criminal justice system is busted.  We have millions of homeless on the streets every night.  The drastically unequal distribution of wealth causes both situations to grow worse.

As Jesus said, we have, “wars and rumors of wars; nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and famines and earthquakes in various places.” It is NOT ALL GOOD!!!  It’s seriously, inhumanely bad!!          

So what do we do? Bury our heads in the sand and say it’s all too much? NO! We suit up! We prepare, but not for combat.  No, we prepare to fight an enemy we can’t see. We fight the system that creates the chaos.

If we are fighting spiritual forces, then we must prepare for spiritual battle. This passage does not denote passive resistance. The word “stand” as used four times in this passage is an imperative, a command that has the sense of “drawing up a military formation for combat.”

We must prepare ourselves first.

Our Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ mission and covenant statement says, “We are centers of service seeking to build neighborhoods of decency and justice, and a world at peace.”

People battling the systems and powers that be get tired. Weary from the fight and facing the sheer volume of need, it is easy to lose hope. This scripture is a rallying cry: “Hang in there! You can do this!”

One reason we come together once a week is to gather the troops in one place. We need each other.  We need to hear each other’s heart and challenge each other to greater works of service. Our greatest resource is the Body of Christ, the Church.  We do the best work when we work together.

The foundation of this suit of armor is peace. Peace that we stand in and stand on. If we do not have peace in our hearts, we cannot bring peace to our world.

There is no armor for our backs. This is a call to fight, not to run. This is no time to quit. If we are not volunteering or helping in some area of social justice work, we can start today, choosing an issue. The work is demanding but rewarding. We need everyone to pitch in.

We pray for God’s help to strengthen and equip us and others, for wisdom to know how and when to act, and for courage to say what needs to be said.

Pray always. Pray without ceasing.

Pastor Jan Shannon
Guest editorial – from Aug. 23 sermon - Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ

Copyright © September 2015 - The Fig Tree