Taking Off the Whole Armor of God
I was reading this article (https://www.christiancentury.org/article/how-my-mind-has-changed/why-i-came-back-around-repentance) this morning and I was struck by the tagline: “First I needed to meet a progressive, gracious God.” That line was something of a tuning fork to me… I found reading the rest of the article difficult because I want to spend time just with that phrase.
I spend a significant amount of my personal faith journey, preaching life, and ministry trying to take off the “whole armor of God”. You know that exciting passage in Ephesians… the breastplate of righteousness and the sword that is the Word of God. So powerful. So strangely anachronistic to most of the ways scripture talks about our life of faith. No wrestling with an angel and limping the rest of our life… no Paul talk about being afflicted and, Paul who speaks with confidence but also with an open heart to the ways faith makes us vulnerable to ridicule, confusion, and doubt. Any attempt we make (and we make a lot of them) to turn Jesus into some indomitable warrior-monk fails at the foot of the cross, or when Jesus took towel and washed his disciples’ feet. I’d like to pass on that please and put on the belt of truth and pick up the shield of faith instead.
I’m struck almost daily how much energy we put into pretending… into appearing like knights in solid armor. My heart aches for how much lies underneath that we fear to share with the world. Enter the tagline of my current focus: “first, I needed to meet a progressive, gracious God”. We have nothing to hide. We do not need to pretend. We are not playing a board game where we count all the tokens at the end of the journey and proclaim a winner.
“First, I needed to meet a progressive, gracious God.”
John Calvin is much maligned, and oft misunderstood. I have my appreciation for him and dislike of much of his jurisprudent theology where everything had to be square and plumb no matter the conclusions such perfect logic arrived at in his God-talk. But I’m a fan of predestination – that terrible divisive concept only a mind so legally consistent as Calvin could have put to paper. But in the end, Calvin’s point is this and only this: you are not saved because of you… you are saved because of God. It has nothing to do with you… you can’t gain it, keep it, or lose it. The creation and healing (saving) of the world is a God job and its way above your pay grade. And we can all stop pretending.
I have said before that we all need to crucify God… or better said, we need to crucify the constructs of God we created or were created for us… because then the God who is really is will rise from the ashes of our armored warrior God – or the vending machine who simply gives us what we want when we ask. And when we meet that God – that God who exists beyond our machinations and projections? A whole new world unfolds around us. The armor falls off and all the energy we have put into winning, or looking like a winner, can… simply relax.
I’ve been called an embarrassment as a pastor and not worthy of respect. I have received notes calling me a blasphemer, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and all manner of names. I have watched many people walk out of my life because I failed them, because I wasn’t enough, or right enough, or fun enough, or authoritarian enough, or malleable enough… or I don’t even know.
It hurts… every time.
But you know who has done none of those things? You know what picks me up and helps me to heal those hurts? You know upon what ground I can fall apart every time?
“First, I had to meet a progressive, gracious God…”
What armor are you wearing? What are you hiding? How much do wish to just let it all go? Stop pretending; stop playing the game; stop wearing ill-fitting and much constricting armor. Just be you… standing before the God who loves you as much as God’s life itself… bathing your feet… and willing for you health and not harm.
Let me introduce you, if you haven’t met, to a gracious God. It’s the first day of the rest of your life.