If you were raised in the church, you probably remember the passage in Ephesians that talks about the armor of God. Maybe you even labeled a medieval style knight with the breastplate of righteousness and the shield of faith in Vacation Bible School. I remember studying those verses a lot as a child, but it wasn’t until I was older that I gained a little context into the armor of the Christian.
Before Paul even begins to describe the various pieces of armor, he warns that “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” (Eph. 6:12).
This war is not a war that I have been taught to fight. Because somewhere along the way, the belt of truth became the belt of opinion. The breastplate of righteousness the breastplate of legalism. The shoes of peace turned into shoes that are all too ready to run into judgement. The shield of faith stopped being a defense against Satan’s arrows, instead being used as a weapon in theological debate. That helmet of salvation has been all but tossed aside, leaving minds vulnerable to corruption. And what of the sword, which is supposed to point towards the very words of God himself? All I see is Scripture taken out of context or twisted so much that it retains little of its original meaning.
And I don’t know how to fight anymore. Because I see so much darkness in the Christianity I have aligned myself with my entire life. I love Jesus with all my heart, but seeing his followers do and say horrific things in his name is too hard to watch. I was taught that the spiritual forces of darkness resided in the secular, the liberals – those who would take the lives of the unborn or participate in a love that defies tradition. But when I look at this world today, I see that Satan’s real foothold on this earth in conservatism. In people who are so worried about rules, they forgot about souls. Where judgement and opinion outweigh empathy and mercy.
I hate conflict. I hate that this war is something that we all have to arm ourselves for. That it’s something that will continue until Christ returns. But I’m done sitting in the shadows of the conservatism I was raised in. Tired of looking behind me and seeing a string of legalistic Baptist churches that hurt me and turned me away from God more than towards Him. Tired of refraining from speaking up because heaven forbid I have ideals that align with anything outside the Republican party.
But more than anything I am determined. Because I believe that it is the purpose of every believer to love. Fully and authentically, without holding back. So I will align myself with those Christians who still take God at his word, not just the words of His that support their opinion. With those Christians who fight against sexism and homophobia and racism. With those Christians who aren’t so preoccupied with standards of modesty that they turn a blind eye on the hurting people in this world who need to be loved and understood.
I beg of you, Christian – the path that so many in our faith have chosen to take is not the only way. Look at the behavior of the believers around you, and look at the heart of God. Recognize when things just don’t line up.
And I beg of you all, do not assume that every believer you encounter will behave the way that so many do. Give us a chance. Because there are many like me who still want to use the label of Christian, but hate all of the baggage that has become attached to it.
Speak up, my friends. And do it with so much love, because that is the only way this war will be won.