Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Sword of the Spirit

I'm a weapons geek. This comes in handy working for the army, but it isn't usually much use in a church setting. The occasional bit of militaria does peek through, like the Armor of God section in Ephesians 6. We covered this section last week in study.

When Christians start talking about armor, we usually do so in the context of medieval knight. This is not what Paul is talking about. Paul wrote in the first century. Knights were cavalrymen who wouldn't exist for almost a millennium. The soldier of Ephesians 6 is the Roman legionnaire, an elite infantryman. So?

Take the Sword of the Spirit for example. Our vision is usually the medieval longsword. I own one. It isn't necessarily a heavy weapon, mine weighs just over two pounds. At over three and a half feet long, what it does have is a lot of reach. This is because longswords were cavalry weapons used to strike from horseback. The imagery it conjures up in our minds is the mighty knight, striking his enemies down at arms length with powerful blows.

This image is wrong. The sword of Ephesians 6 is not a long sword. It is a short sword, in New Testament Greek "machaira". In Latin it was called the gladius. It was the sword of the empire and it was an intimate weapon. They are meant to be employed in close combat, face to face. A roman legionnaire would come close to his foe, feel their breath, smell their fear, wait for an opening, and thrust his gladius into the other man's heart.

As Christians we have to get over the desire to throw out bible verses left and right, secure in our knowledge that "the word of God never returns void." But really this is just an excuse to minister without knowing people. It allows us to act holy, but really we're just distancing people because we feel threatened. Instead we need to get to know people, become friends, get involved.

We also need to realize that Paul's conception of "the word of God" was probably more than just well placed bible verses. I think we're missing a whole prophetic connotation that was present in the first century church. The word of God is a metaphor for all things we do through God's empowerment. Think Christ as "fulfillment of the law" here. The Word made flesh in John. It is ministering to others and speaking to them in truth. It is constant and consistent prayer. It is the only weapon we have against the darkness.


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