"12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."
As a child I used to be a big fan of the kids songs at church. I loved the actions and the permission to shout certain words, stamp my feet and have fun. It was my favourite part of the whole experience. Every now and again I find myself being comforted or challenged by words of Scripture and it turns out that those words are fresh in my memory because of songs I sang as a child. One of those songs came from the passage above.
The words of that passage came to mind today when I read with sadness about a group of Christian leaders in America releasing a statement where they named gay people as the main enemy of the church. In a statement that made me sadder with every paragraph there were lines so angry and graceless that I felt my own anger and gracelessness rising up. As I read, I thought of young people who are already feeling unloved by God as they struggle to come to terms with their feelings, having their worst fears confirmed by the voices of those who appear to be respected voices for our Heavenly Father. I thought of those who believe that the church hates them, having those beliefs embed deeper into their hearts. It was truly maddening.
The word that stood out to me the most was the word enemy. It jumped from the page over and over again and every time it did the words from Ephesians sprung up in my memory. 'Put on the full of armour of God.' It made little sense, why I would need the armour when I am not the one being attacked by these words.
Walking to a meeting earlier I felt it click into place. If we are following Jesus, the one marked by grace and generous love then words like those I read are an attack on us. They are an attack on the gospel of grace that reaches to all, slave or free, male or female, slave or greek, gay or straight, lost or found, or, or, or etc.
We must put on the armour of God as we stand against the words of hate that are coming from our 'camp.' We must extinguish the flaming arrows that fly from our camp in condemnation of others. We must raise up our shield of faith to protect them against these words of hate. We cannot stay silent and allow this to be the loudest voice of Christianity.
We must never allow ourselves, or those who claim the name of Jesus to portray God and His church as being at war with flesh and blood. For we are all flesh and blood and there is no distinction between us and anyone else. Let us be a people who fight against the real enemy, rulers, powers and authorities in the spiritual world. Enemies with names like bigotry, hatred, judgementalism, fear, anger and malice. It is these things that are the true enemies of the gospel; it is never a person with a heartbeat and a soul. We must always welcome them as friends.