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.