Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:10-11)
This one is for all of you at Imago Dei Church. The rest of you…well, you can come along for the ride.
The Roman army was an army of soldiers, not warriors. Unlike the Germanic “barbarians” of the North, each individual Roman wasn’t particularly impressive. No individual Roman soldier would have been considered a hero. Rather, it was the organization and coordination of the Roman army that made it impressive. Ranks upon ranks of soldiers, all functioning together, is what enabled Rome to enforce its will upon the world. It wasn’t any one person, but all the people, working together.
When Roman armies fought, they would form into ranks, each soldier holding a body-sized shield. When the Roman ranks would come into contact with the enemy, they would hide behind their shields, thrusting with their swords from behind the cover of these shields. Given that the shield is carried in the left hand, the large shield would cover not only the soldier himself but the soldier on his left.
When the Apostle Paul discussed the armor of God, I believe that he assigned qualities to each item conscious of their use by a Roman soldier. Therefore we can learn about those qualities, based on the equipment he assigned to each quality.
So. The shield of faith.
From where I’m sitting, it feels like it’s been a rough Advent. Maybe it’s the tenor of the sermons, or maybe it’s the conversations that I’ve been in. I feel like I’m surrounded by hurting people. And not with small hurts, either. God knows, I’m hurting this Advent, with the news about my children and all.
Maybe I’m the only one struggling. But I don’t think so.
When a Roman legionnaire wielded his shield, it wasn’t just to protect himself. It was also to protect the soldier next to him. When I wield the shield of faith, I’m not just protecting myself; I’m protecting you.
And sometimes, we all need someone to use their shield to protect us, don’t we?
So I’ll make you a deal. When I’m strong, I’ll shield you. I will remind you of the promises of our good Father. I will be strong for you when the darkness closes in on all sides. When you stumble and fall, I will stand over you with my shield, protecting you while screaming for you to get up, get up, get up! With my shield, I will guard your life.
And when I’m weak, when I fall, when the darkness closes in around me, you do the same for me. Stand over me. Guard my life. Call out for me to get back on my feet. And shield my life.
I will guard you with my faith. Guard me with yours.