Tuesday, August 18, 2009

God What Do You Say?

(as posted on by the way's blog)

When I started preparing for this Thursday's Bread for Your Journey, I really had no idea what I was going to talk about, as I found this week's Ephesians verse very hard to understand:

Ephesians 6: 10-20 (New Living Translation)
10A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
19And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. 20I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.
Coming from a contemporary context, isn't it sort of difficult to rap your head around at first? I've always focused on the more practical aspects of Christianity in some ways, and very rarely have ever thought of a personified "Devil" or evil demons flying around, etc. I've also always seen Christianity as a religion of peace (even if it hasn't always acted that way), and thus I was surprised by much of the author's imagery. I started looking around the web for different interpretations of the passage, and this one by William Loader really made the passage clear: Ephesians 6:10-20.

In his interpretation, William Loader talks about how God calls us to a spiritual struggle, but one of peace rather than a violent one. Even more importantly, God calls us to an internal spiritual struggle, to put on the "belt of truth and body armor of God's righteousness" and fight those personal devils that we all have as human beings.

Amazingly, right after I read Pastor Loader's interpretation, a good friend of mine sent me a link to this quote:

"A Native American Elder once described his own inner struggles in
this manner: 'Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean
and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all
the time.' When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and
replied, 'The one I feed the most."

While this exact wording was published in Experiencing the Soul by Elliot Rosen & Ellen Burstyn, it's supposedly derived from an old Cherokee saying, and it really fleshes out what we all go through internally on a daily basis.

When thinking about the dual internal/ external implications of the Ephesians passage, it made me consider how the traditional, non-fundamentalist Muslim notion of jihad is really quite similar, especially concerning the "greater jihad," or internal struggle. This of course, is a really interesting correlation considering America's current worldly external struggles.

As an end to my long train of thought, one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs came to mind, called "Marker in the Sand:"

While I don't necessarily agree with all of Eddie Vedder's lyrics, the song really does touch on a key issue: when taking up God's call to the external spiritual struggle (whether as a Christian, a Muslim, or of any other faith) it's easy to "walk tightrope high over moral ground," and forget the internal struggle. Without that internal component, God's call to peacefully spread his Good News can easily become judgmental and violent. Well I hope that gives you all a lot to think about, and I can't wait to hear your opinions this Thursday at Bread for Your Journey.

God's peace,

1 comment:

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