A familiar New Testament image is the Christian soldier in Ephesians 6, modeled after the Roman soldier.
Paul was in prison, so there were probably many soldiers nearby. Some believe the apostle in his confinement was actually chained to a soldier. In this chapter, he described how a soldier in the Lord’s army would dress, including the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation and the sword. He likened the Roman sword to the “sword of the Spirit,” or the word of God. The sword was the only offensive weapon Paul mentioned, and the weapon Jesus used three times to combat Satan’s temptations.
It’s interesting to me that this man of combat wore the shoes of peace (v. 15). This seems contradictory at first since a warrior isn’t usually charged to be a peacekeeper. But since the only offensive weapon is the Word of God and every other piece of armor is defensive, it makes sense that the Christian warrior can speak God’s truth, walk in peace and be a welcomed presence in the world.
The Christian is to seek peace among the nations. We live in a broken world, to be sure, and wars continue, but a Christian is called to make peace. Jesus pronounced a blessing on peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).
I asked some senior adults in our church for their insight in the ’90s when the Desert Storm conflict was imminent. I asked how they prayed during World War II. They told me how they prayed for their husbands and brothers on the battlefield and for a swift end to hostilities.
“Did you pray for Adolph Hitler, too?” I added.
“We certainly did,” they said. “We prayed that God would change his heart and that he would end this madness.”
A Christian is to seek peace in the community as well.
Many of us have seen “neighborhood wars” when residents practice a “tit for tat” kind of thing over some offense and engage in constant bickering. We know families broken by divorce who end up living in hostility. And some families not broken by divorce also live in conflict; sometimes because of inheritance issues. A little bit of money can change someone into a bitter person.
And, of course, we’ve seen pettiness in churches, too — most of the time over minor things unrelated to the major mission of God’s church. We have to keep our mission in focus. As Ron Lewis said so well, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!”
The Christian soldier is not a threat to others. He follows in the steps of the Prince of Peace. He is a welcomed presence bringing goodwill wherever he or she may travel.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website is siluriabaptist.com.