Summary: Here’s the truth, whether we want to recognize it or not: we’re in a battle. When we choose Jesus Christ, we’re not choosing the easy path in life. Our foes are worse than any of those in human battles: we’re battling “spiritual forces of evil”. Our foe i
“Armed and Dangerous”
Kung Fu Clergy. Martial Arts Ministry. If you think these are cute oxymorons, think again. More karate clergy are cinching their black belts than ever, chopping for Christ, kicking, blocking, flipping and punching their way into churches everywhere. Many of them, now in their 40s, watched the early 1970s television series, Kung Fu, about a half-American Sholin priest, hiding out in the American Wild West, righting wrongs by defending the weak – only after showing considerable self-restraint.
At tiny Emmanuel Baptist Church in Montana, the Rev. Kent Haralson, who started teaching karate kicks on the lawn two years ago, has since baptized 24 of his karate students, and attendance at Sunday services has doubled to 130. Some people just take clergy more seriously if we aren’t in the “Jesus meek and Jesus mild” category. No more sniveling, pantywaist, milquetoast, momma’s-boy clergyguys who get sand kicked up into their faces. We’re talking martial –arts – MINISTRY!
((PUNCTUATE THE WORD “MINISTRY” WITH A FURIOUS KARATE CHOP TO THREE OR FOUR BOARDS SET ON CINDER BLOCKS. DON’T WORRY – THEY’LL BE SAWN IN TWO AND THEN GLUED TOGETHER!))
Is that what the apostle Paul had in mind when he listed the weapons at a Christian’s disposal in today’s text? Probably not. Paul was writing when the Roman military industrial complex was at the peak of its glory and to a people who understood the technological superiority of the tools and training of the Roman soldiers. He used examples of Roman war weapons because these military tools were familiar the world over, and because such imagery carried real power.
His point is clear: Christians are in a war, but it’s not a war against a flesh and blood enemy; therefore, the weapons of choice are not material but spiritual. Figurative swords, helmets, shields and the like are needed in order to stand firm.
Here’s the difficulty for today: we don’t live in first-century Rome. The political culture today is not receptive to military images as appropriate for Christian slogans and evangelism. That’s why it’s so easy for us to miss the apostle’s central message, which is so important for us: The Christian life is all about staying alert, standing firm and proclaiming the gospel of peace.
In attempt to de-emphasize what seems to be inappropriate language with which we are uncomfortable many Christians ignore the battle-like imagery of this passage. We’re uncomfortable with war and we would rather leave this passage alone. We wish Paul had used a different metaphor, perhaps drawn upon the agrarian culture of his day: “Pick up the hoe of the Spirit, don the straw hat of salvation, hold up your trousers with the suspenders of truth, and pull on the barn coat of righteousness.” But he didn’t.
Paul chose to suggest for us an imagery of weapons; tools at our disposal allowing us to not only stand firm but to spread the gospel of peace. And here’s the truth, whether we want to recognize it or not: we’re in a battle. When we choose Jesus Christ, we’re not choosing the easy path in life. Our foes are worse than any of those in human battles: we’re battling “spiritual forces of evil”. Our foe is strong. But here’s the encouraging thing: there is no greater protection in this conflict than “the whole armor of God” that Paul speaks about.
Before we go any further I want to caution you of two extremes - First of all let me say this: don’t give the enemy too much credit. Many churches have a tendency to glorify the enemy, and give him more credit than he deserves. There’s an old fashioned phrase which I used to hear growing up which is fairly simplistic and yet pretty powerful. It goes like this: I’ve read the back of the book and Christ wins! When Jesus Christ rose from the dead he won the victory for us. And while we’re constantly fighting a battle we have the promise of a power at our disposal that is greater than that of our enemies.
But let me also say, be careful that you don’t give the enemy enough credit. The Devil is a powerful force to be reckoned with. And sometimes we fail to recognize that power.
There are two paths that a person who becomes a Christian can take: the easy way and the difficult way; the artificial and the genuine; the lie or the truth. And the battle that Paul talks about here in this text is the battle which goes on in the lives of those who have chosen the difficult path. The genuine path. The truth.
If you choose to search for holiness, to truly follow Christ, to live a Christ-like life you will become a dangerous opponent of the devil. On the other hand, if you simply go through the motions, come to church, pay your tithe, and give your nod-to-God then the enemy will be perfectly comfortable with who you are. Why? Because you’re not a threat. Christians who are not diligently following Christ present no risk to the enemy. They won’t do any harm, and so why bother them? Let them feel comfortable with themselves, they’re better off to the enemy staying like that. The enemy doesn’t want you to grow. He doesn’t want you to take up your cross and follow Christ, because if you do you’re going to cause him trouble.