Summary: If I am going to do battle for peace and justice, I need appropriate equipping -- sometimes for hard work, sometimes for self-defense, and always for a teachable spirit.
There may be some things of which it can be said that one size fits all, but shoes are not among them. Shoes are very personal, and when they’re wrong, they’re wrong. If they hurt, they hurt. With some things, you can make do with the wrong size – a belt that’s too long, pants that are a bit snug, a shirt that’s big enough to write a speech on it – and it won’t matter much. But if I don’t have 9-D’s on my feet, I hurt.
Shoe shopping is not my favorite thing. I know that there are people who make shoe shopping an Olympic sport, but I am not one of them. I am not interested in rifling through scores of boxes, comparing styles, harassing shoe salesman. In fact, I am so not into shoe shopping that I have found one brand that fits me well, it’s comfortable and affordable, and when I see this particular brand on sale, I buy two pairs, one black and one brown, and that’s it. Done, finished. I am not Imelda Marcos, piling up hundreds of shoes in a rainbow of colors. I get one black, one brown, 9-D, Barrington, done.
But I can’t recommend that to you, now, can I? I can’t recommend that to you because one size does not fit all. Nor does one style suit all. Nor is one price affordable for every budget. Nor is every shoe the right one for every occasion. I can’t recommend that you follow me to the store and get shoes just like mine. What I can do, however, is to suggest that you and I walk a mile in other people’s shoes. A Lakota Indian proverb has it, “Never criticize someone else unless you walk a mile in his moccasins.”
So I’ve worn moccasins today. Even though they are not that regular kind I buy so often, these are my favorite shoes. They are comfortable, they slip on and off quite easily, they hold up well on all sorts of terrain. I like my moccasins.
But if I am going to do battle in the world, and especially if I am going to do battle for peace and justice, I need to walk a mile in other shoes. I need to feel what it is like to carry somebody else’s burdens and to accept somebody else’s responsibilities. I need the kind of shoes Paul spoke about in his passage about the full armor of God –
As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
Whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. In other words, put on whatever shoes will help you do what others need to have done. The kinds of shoes that they wear, the burdens they carry, the responsibilities they have – we need to feel our way into those things. Walk a mile in others’ shoes, and you’ll be on the battlefield for the Lord.
Early in His ministry Jesus attracted a great deal of attention. His teaching, His preaching, and most of all His healings brought the crowds. When He got back to Capernaum one day, the buzz on the streets was that Jesus was home. They all came running to hear what He had to say and to receive what He had to give. They came running, they filled His house, they crowded the street – so many people, so eager to be close to Jesus. One man who was paralyzed was carried by his friends. They couldn’t get through, so they took their friend to the roof, they peeled back some tiles, and they lowered their friend down to Jesus. This man had some very special friends. I like to think that to do what they id, they must have been equipped with just exactly the right shoes.
For example, I imagine them wearing boots, good strong hiking boots, so that they could march through the crowd and carry their friend to where Jesus was. Their friend was paralyzed. He couldn’t walk on his own. He needed help. Four friends, determined to get to where the action was, set out to do what had to be done. Nothing was going to stop them. I imagine them wearing boots. Hiking boots. Marching boots. The obstacles were many. But if you wear hiking boots, you mean business. You are going in there, no matter what stands in the way. Too many people; thick walls on the house; a roof that had to be peeled back, but they were not going to be stopped. Determined.
If you would do battle for the Lord, walk a mile in their shoes. Walk a mile in their marching boots, because there are going to be a lot of people who will try to discourage you if you have set your course to work for justice. Kingdom causes are not for the faint of heart. God’s work is not for the timid. You must be clear about what God’s work is all about. If you’re clear that what you are doing is God’s work, there’ll be no stopping you. You will march on. But if you don’t know what God’s work involves, that it is about justice and peace and bringing people to Jesus, you will let anything stop you. If you don’t believe that what you are committed to is God’s will, and you are trying to march out of your own energies, you will get tired. You will wear out. You will be stopped by any obstacle. If you would do battle for the Lord, walk a mile in their marching boots.