“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 fast against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)
With this strong exhortation, St. Paul concludes his letter to the Christian congregations in Ephesus, from his prison cell in Rome (ca. 62 A.D.). It also serves to conclude our summer preaching series on this sublime text. So … how does this particular part of St. Paul’s letter (Ephesians 6:10-20), still speak to our hearts and minds today?
For sure, it’s a difficult word. At one level there’s the temptation of simply interpreting it in some militaristic way. The Crusades for example, or sending gunboats to China. … At another level, there’s the temptation of shrugging-it-off as just some mythical, old-fashioned way for interpreting why there’s so much evil and chronic tragedy in human history. “The devil?!” you say. “You mean, Ol’ Scratch?!” … And as well, there’s always the at-bottom-level temptation of interpreting such an exhortation as something “I have to do, all by myself” – taking on the “slings and arrows” of our wild and wooly world as some solitary figure.
So, did you note the use of the word “temptation” in all three levels of these possible levels of interpretation? I think this is the entrée or entry point into what St. Paul is speaking to us, in all the physical and spiritual battles that we experience, each day of our lives. As one of my favorite Christian authors puts it, in his own wily and winsome way: “To take the Devil [and all of his temptations] seriously, is to take seriously the fact that the total evil in the world is greater than the sum of all its parts. Likewise the total evil in yourself. The murdering terrorist who says, ‘I couldn’t help it’ isn’t necessarily kidding.” (Frederick Buechner; Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, p.19) This weekend we’ll look at the rap sheet of the Original Terrorist and our own … together.
John R. Christopherson
As a homework assignment, I would also strongly encourage you to read St. Paul’s entire letter of Ephesians: from Chapter 1 through Chapter 3. Reading the entire context always gives the particular text a fuller sense of understanding and meaning.
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