Going To War

We have been meeting our neighbors and I will be doing some more writing on this.  However, I just got back from a week of holidays and am trying to get caught up.  Here is my sermon I preached on Remembrance Day (or Veteran’s Day). 

Date: November 11, 2007                             Image: Lest we forget
Text: Ephesians 6:10-20
FOT: Paul tells us to put on the armor of God
FOS: To help the congregation see that we are in the middle of a war 

Today is Remembrance Day.  We wear our poppies because we remember Flander’s field.   We remember the people who died in the Great War; many who believed they died for the sake of freedom.  And so today our country pauses and pays tribute to the men and women who died for our freedom.

In the midst of today we will continue to hear a phrase spoken on the lips of many people: Lest we forget.  There is this danger that people will forget; they will forget the stories of bravery, forget the stories of life and death, forget the stories of liberation, forget the stories of sacrifice and forget the stories of destruction.  There is a real danger that our children will forget and so we hear it on the lips of many people, Lest we forget. 

War is a reality.  As long as there are governments and as long as the governments look out for themselves and for their own country there will be war.  War, they say, is absolutely essential at times in order for peace to become a reality.  For this reason George Bush, Tony Blair, Jean Chretian, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper all believe that war in the Middle East is necessary because without war against terrorism, without war against radical Islamist, peace will be unattainable.  Whether this is true or not time will tell.  What time has told us, unfortunately, is that Christians believe war is necessary for peace.

In the Civil War between the North and the South Christians on both sides of the battle sanctioned the killing of the enemy in the name of God because they believed that without the war peace would be unattainable.  In the religious wars of the Middle Ages Christians killed one another over various doctrines.  Those who were Anabaptists (believing in adult baptism) were drowned, hanged and burned at the stake in the name of God because those who killed did so believing that religious peace was only attainable with the killing of those who believed in the Anabaptist tradition.  The great crusades saw Christians take up the sword against the enemies in the name of God because they believed that peace would rule when Christians won the war.  What was true of history is true of today.  A large number of evangelical Christians sanction the fighting of war: the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan, the war against radical Islamist and when the enemy is killed the evangelical Christians who sanction these wars praise God for the killing of the enemy.  Unfortunately what we don’t realize is that the peace of Jesus never comes riding on the tank or with the killing of the enemy.  The peace of Jesus only comes when followers of Jesus die for the sake of the world and for the enemy; just like Jesus died.

 Ephesians 6:10-20: A Call To Bear Arms

Our text this morning is a most peculiar text because it calls us to bear arms and go to war.  If you have your Bible follow along as I read Ephesians 6:10-20.  Read Ephesians 6:10-20.

Historically we have been told this passage in the book of Ephesians is based upon a Roman soldier.  Some people have said that as Paul is sitting in prison writing this letter he is watching a Roman soldier dressed in his combative uniform.  The Roman soldier would be wearing a belt and so Paul says, “Put on the belt of truth.  The Roman soldier wears a breastplate to stop the spears and swords and Paul uses this to tell us to put on the breastplate of righteousness.  Shoes, every soldier needs a set of shoes and so Paul tells us to put on the shoes of peace.  A shield, a sword, a helmet all of these are essential items for a soldier in battle.

Is Paul looking at a Roman soldier as he is writing this?  Maybe he is or maybe he is not.  Is Paul telling us to put on these war like items because this is what a Roman soldier is wearing?  Possibly, but we don’t know for sure.  In fact truth be known this is only speculation upon our part.

As we search the scriptures we do however discover in the Old Testament a very similar passage to Ephesians 6:10-20.  This passage is found in the book of Isaiah, the 59th chapter.  In Isaiah we discover that God puts on the armor and goes to war for his people.  Could we also suggest that maybe Paul, as he is looking at the Roman soldier is reminded of Isaiah 59 and therefore writes what he does, not based on the Roman soldier, but based upon Isaiah 59?

 Isaiah 59:16-19

Listen to what Isaiah 59:15b-17 says.  Read Isaiah 59:15b-17.  In this section of Isaiah we discover that there is no justice.  The oppressed are continued to be knocked down and dragged out.  The naked remain naked.  The hungry continue to go hungry while the fat and the wed fed get fatter and eat more.  The homeless remain homeless while those who have money buy homes and charge extravagant rent.  Lies are spoken on the lips of people in the courtroom and the hopeless have no one to defend them against these lies that are spoken.  Because of this the writer of Isaiah writes these words,

Therefore justice is far from us and righteousness does not reach us; we wait for light and lo! There is darkness; and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.  We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight . . . .  We all growl like bears; like doves we moan mournfully.  We wait for justice but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us (Isaiah 59:9-11). 

Following these words in Isaiah 59 we are told that God sees what it is taking place.  God sees that there is no one to give justice and no one to give liberation to those who need it and this appalled Him.  It appalled God that there was no one willing to give justice and to intervene on behalf of those who needed intervention and so he put on the breastplate of righteousness, he put on the helmet of liberation, he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing and he gave justice and liberation to those who needed justice and liberation.

 Ephesians 6:10-20 (Again)

Paul, writing in his letter called Ephesians says, “Put on the armor of God . . . put on the breastplate of righteousness . . . put on the helmet of liberation.  Paul is asking us, the church to put on the same virtues and actions that have marked God’s saving intervention in the past.  Paul is asking us, the church, to be dressed in the same garments that God dresses himself in.

Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness and so we say to ourselves that we must be righteous.  We must not lie, we must not steal, we must not commit adultery, we must obey our parents and when we do all this we say to ourselves that we have put on the breastplate of righteousness.  The problem lies, not in acting this way, but in believing that righteousness is simply not stealing, lying, committing adultery or simply obeying parents.  This is not the righteousness Paul is talking about.  Paul is talking about putting on justice.  Righteousness and justice are the same word in the Greek language.  One can easily translate righteousness but one could easily translate it also as justice.  If we read Ephesians 6:10-20 in relationship to Isaiah 59 it seems that we must translate righteousness as justice.  Paul is not simply telling us to be righteous he is telling us to put on the armor of God, which is bringing justice to those who need justice.

Paul then goes on and he tells us to put on a few more things one of them being the helmet of salvation.  We hear these words and so we say that we are wearing this helmet called salvation.  We go around and we say, “We have been saved.  With this we start to sing songs about salvation while wearing these helmets.  Again the problem lies not in saying, “We have been saved,” but in believing that wearing the helmet of salvation is simply knowing we have been saved.  Again the Greek word for salvation can also be translated as liberation.  If we translate Ephesians 6 as wearing the helmet of salvation than we all can sit here in our nice outfits and say we all are wearing the helmet of God.  But if we read Ephesians 6 in the context of Isaiah 59 it is not simply sitting here knowing we are saved it is now putting on the helmet of liberation.

In Isaiah God sees that there is no justice and that there is no liberation for those who need justice and so he puts on the armor and he begins to act to bring about justice and liberation.  Paul, I am convinced is not describing a Roman soldier he is describing for us and telling us to put on God’s armor.  Paul is asking us, the church to put on the same virtues and actions that have marked God’s saving intervention in the past.  Paul is asking us, the church, to be dressed in the same garments that God dresses himself in.  Paul is asking us, the church to act as the hands and feet of God would act.

 WWII – Liberating France & Liberating the Jewish People

Today is Remembrance Day.  We celebrate today because we want to remember what our grandparents, great grandparents, and for some of us, our parents and for guys like Avard, what we did.  We remember the battles taking place in the trenches.  We remember the bombing of various cities and the fierce fighting that people engaged in.  We remember the sacrifices that individuals gave so that the freedoms we have today can be what they are.

Today we remember France and how it was a combined effort by many different countries to liberate them from the oppressive hand of Hitler and his following.  We remember D-Day, June 6th and the fierce fighting that took place knowing that it was because of the hundreds of lives that were sacrificed France could be liberated.  The history channel will most likely play Saving Private Ryan because it tells through images what the war was like and it helps us remember what people went through.

Today we remember the liberation of the Jewish people.  The hundreds of Jewish families: mothers and fathers and children hoarded together and placed on the trains only to be taken to the concentration camps where they were slaughtered without mercy. We remember how many different people fought in the number of ways they did, like the town called Le Chambron, who housed Jewish refugees escaping from the certain death they would have faced if they were apprehended.  Today we remember the Oskar Schindler’s.  Oskar Schindler was not an exceptional man.  He was selfish and greedy, always looking for a chance to gain more in his pursuit of pleasure and the good life.  And yet in every life a moment comes when we have a chance to be more than what we have been.

Oskar Schindler, as depicted in the movie Schindler’s List is standing at a window contemplating a move that could very well cost him his fortune.  Schindler is deciding to buy back his workers from the Nazi concentration camp where they have been taken so they can continue to work in his factory, but mainly so that they can live.  Schindler strikes a deal with Goeth, the Nazi leader to purchase the people.  Today we remember the Oskar Schindler’s who spent all their wealth on purchasing 1100 Jewish people from the certain death of a Nazi concentration camp.

Today we were our poppies, we remember the sacrifices, the battles, the lost lives, the destruction.  Today we remember the freedom purchased by the blood of unknown soldiers, the freedom given by the sweat and tears of the young men.  And we say to one another, “Lest We Forget.  Lest we forget the sacrifice that was given so we can have freedom.

 Lest We Forget What The Church Is About

Today, however, I am asking you church to say the words, “Lest We Forget” in a different context.  Lest we forget that God calls us to bear arms – not to kill the enemy but to give justice and liberation to those who need justice and liberation.  Lest we forget that God calls the church not to build a building and for all of us to sit inside it singing songs of salvation and telling each other that we are saved but rather calls us to be his body to the broken and hurting world outside these doors. 

 Lest we forget that God calls us to give justice to the widow who is being mistreated and abused because they can’t take care of themselves.  Lest we forget that God calls us to give liberation to the spiritually broken, the physically disabled and the mentally challenged.  Lest we forget that we have a neighborhood beside us that needs to be liberated from the snare of the devil.  Lest we forget that we have children who walk past our property everyday that need to be liberated from the drugs that are prevalent in their lives.  Lest we forget that we are to put on the armor of God and to go to war.  Lest we forget we do this because Jesus died for you, for me, and for all the world. 

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Published in: on November 13, 2007 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

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