There is an Enemy

We have been exploring worship in recent weeks. We have talked about worship as something that happens in the presence of the Risen Lord. We have discussed worship as where the reign of God is announced. Worship as a place where our stories intersect with God’s story, as a gathering of people we did not choose, as a people God brings together for God’s mission, as something we do in response to the activity of God.

Yesterday, we talked about worship again. Worship as a place where a battle is waged. Worship as an acknowledgement we have an enemy. Ephesians was our catalyst for conversation. In chapter four, Ephesians gives us a list of gifts within the body. Unity is important and we read chapter four and realize we cannot be discipled alone. Following Jesus requires others. As hard as unity is, it is necessary.

As hard as that is, things get harder still because we have an enemy. We are not paranoid. There is actually a plot designed to destroy us. A plot that requires us to reckon with principalities and powers and authorities and forces of darkness.  We have an enemy and that makes it important to take seriously chapter six.

“Be strong… stand firm… put on the full armor…” This is no appendix, not some add on to the letter as it comes to a conclusion. This makes sense of the rest of the letter. Living in a pagan world is hard. Together, we war against an enemy. To sign up for what we do in worship is nothing less than war.

It is easy to think of this war as optional. It is easy to think we can stay on the sideline while others fight against darkness on our behalf. Just as Christ gave gifts to the church in chapter four “so that the body of Christ may be built up” is a corporate statement, so is “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” We are in this together. 

I once heard Greg Boyd tell a story that highlighted this thought well. Since I can’t remember the details of Boyd’s story, I am taking some liberty with it here. 

This story starts on July 1, 1863. Imagine you are on vacation. You, the family, and some family friends are enjoying a cottage in a wooded area near Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, PA. You have been coming here for years now. It is peaceful and relaxing. A fine place to stay during a hot part of the summer. 

But on that morning, July 1, 1863, you are awakened by a knock on the door. You open it to find General Meade of the Union Army. He is requesting your cottage and asking you and your family to share resources and join the fight. The Confederate Army is on the way and fighting is inevitable.

However, you have vacation plans. You have chicken marinating in the refrigerator and have already planned a corn hole tournament. This has always been your time. You tell the General you will not be participating in his fight but wish him luck in the war.

Think about this scenario. You are on the battlefield. War is going on all around you. You are literally caught in the crossfire. To ignore this and cheer from the sideline is foolish. Ephesians states clearly, we have an enemy. Together, we are at war. To ignore this due to busyness or disinterest does not make it go away. We are caught in the crossfire. To cheer from the sideline is foolish.


Ready For Action

The letter to the Church at Ephesus is likely a document meant to circulate through Ephesus and on into the churches of the Lycus Valley.  As other New Testament letters, Ephesians finishes strong with application.  And its final emphasis clearly attempts to prepare us for the reality that life is war.  By awakening the troops throughout the valley to be ready.  Every morning we wake up in battle.  Every day we are in combat with an opponent.

Ephesians wants us prepared to face our opponent.  Ephesians is not the only place I have been spending time in recent days.  I have also been spending some time at the soccer field.  I am tempted to apologize for thinking of soccer.  But, the fact is, I can no longer read scripture without thinking of outside things such as soccer.  And while on the soccer field I can no longer help but think about scripture.

Truth be known, I have spent a great deal of time at the soccer field for the past thirty years.  And in preparation for this fall season, I have been working three times a week with a local club team.  Keightley continues to play soccer in the local Mechanicsburg Soccer Club.  And Karissa has just started her college career playing at Ohio Christian University.

While on the field, we are in uniform.  A jersey reminds us which side we are on.  It reminds us that winning requires a team effort.  It reminds us that we can not do it alone.  Shorts free us up for running, for dribbling, and defending.  Cleats are designed for ball control, balance, proper maneuvering, and maintaining traction.  Shin guards serve the obvious but necessary purpose of protecting the lower leg.  The uniform reminds us of the importance to be prepared.  To be dressed and ready for action.

A uniform does serve a purpose.  It is not worn just to look nice.  I may be talking about a soccer uniform but remember – I have been reading the letter to the Church at Ephesus.  I have an interest in the armor of God.  Ephesians wants us to know the importance of the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit.  Ephesians wants us to know that we have an enemy.  That we are unable to combat the enemy alone.  Ephesians wants us to know that God desires to protect us.  That we must prepare properly.  We must be dressed and ready for action.