Not Against Flesh and Blood
Christopher B. Harbin
There is something in the human psyche that seems to be enamored of war, violence, revenge, and other means of leveraging power and influence over others. One would be hard pressed to find a twenty year span in which the United States has not had some wartime involvement in its history of less than 250 years. Jesus' comments in Matthew about wars and rumors of wars reflect the norm of human history around the globe. War, fighting, conflict, and turmoil have been at the heart of human history from its inception. The church has found itself caught up in conflicts like the Crusades, the Inquisition, various schisms of denominational conflict, and splits of factions within the church as far back as Philippi. Why are we so prone to wage war with one another? We fight and struggle, even when we are not one another's enemies.
We have all heard a lot of discussion at times about putting on our spiritual armor. Somehow we tend to dissociate Paul's descriptions of the spiritual armor available to us from the rest of what Paul has been writing to the Ephesians. We treat this passage not simply as a stand-alone passage, but almost as though it were a complete and isolated text devoid of any kind of context. We forget that it is part of a larger argument Paul is presenting to the believers in Ephesus.
When Paul begins speaking of our spiritual armor, he is still writing about the conflict within the Ephesian church. He could just as well have been writing about our own. He had addressed the raging conflict between factions of Gentile and Jewish believers. He then spoke of the various social categories within the church that were equally disruptive to unity, between men and women, parents and children, slaves and masters. The spiritual armor, he then casts as needful for helping the church overcome the conflict between their own internal factions as reflections of a spiritual struggle from the outside ...
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