Seatbelts first became compulsory in Australia in the early 70’s. In the late 70’s the first car with anti-locking braking was produced. In the mid 80’s child restraints became law. By the end of the 80’s airbags became common place for the driver. By the end of the 90’s safety standards were standardised under ANCAP. Today features such as electronic stability control, blind spot detection, reversing cameras, pedestrian and traffic detection, adaptative cruise control, and airbags throughout the cabin have all become standard legal requirements in the cars we drive. The evolution of all these safety features in the modern car are there to protect the driver, passengers, pedestrians, and others road users. Most of us wouldn’t consider buying a car unless it has the highest safety rating.
We often baulk at the supposed “over-regulations” that are imposed upon us by society. We demand freedom and individual rights and advocate the right to make our own choices. We grumble at regulations when they are applied, and then grumble when we face price gouging and monopolistic behaviour by large corporate entities demand greater regulation of the market. It is always a balancing act for governments to get the regulatory requirements right, so people retain their freedom but are protected from their folly. By and large, Australian governments have tried to provide the right balance with the intent of making Australia the great place it is.
As we draw to the close of Ephesians, Paul offers the same balancing act for the church. We limit Eph 6:10-20 when we think of this in terms of the individual. Pauls’ entire emphasis in Ephesians has been on Christ, who governs the seen and unseen universes and beyond, and his relationship with His body, the Church. Here he finishes with a summary of what is at stake. Our battle is not a personal one, it is a cosmic one. We are at war with the devil, the cosmic powers, the spiritual forces of evil, and those that exert rule and authority that attempts to usurp God. He calls for them to put on the armour of God, and take up the battle, standing firm, resisting these forces, and declaring to the world that we are the Body of Christ.
The call to put on the belt of truth reminds us of the truth of the Gospel we as Church must proclaim. The breastplate of righteousness is Christ, whom we put on, who has redeemed us by grace alone. The shoes of readiness propel us into being people of peace. The shield of faith deflects all the temptations the Church faces to not be the Body of Christ. And the sword of the Spirit is the word of God we cling to that reminds us of a freely given relationship with Christ for us and the world. All this leads to a Church that continually and persistently prays. Not just for itself, but for all those who wear this armour, who proclaim the mystery of Christ.
Jesus has given to the Church the safety and security measures it needs to be Church. When we fail to live with them, using them to their full measure, we fail to be the Body of Christ. The world around us wants nothing more than to tear the Church down, to corrupt it into being a benign and ineffectual presence. We are at war, and that war leads to the consequences of eternity without God, without knowing the Divine love offered in Christ. We need to be a Church built on truth, focussed on Christ, living in peace with all, allowing faith to drive us, the Word to encourage us, and prayer to open the hearts of those who don’t know the joy of the Gospel. Let us put on the armour of God, not as a work, but as an act of grace so we can be the people of God in the world we live.