Friday, October 31, 2008

The Believer's Costume

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

                        Ephesians 6.11

All Hallows Eve All the Time

Halloween is an unofficial GLBT national holiday when we can be ourselves by dressing up like somebody else and goof on trends and personages meaning our community no good. (This year, expect Sarah Palins by the boatload, as well as all sorts of imaginative takes on the marriage controversy.) Halloween is also an unofficial holiday in many Christian traditions—the eve of All Hallows (or All Saints) Day, when according to legend, Satan and his minions go on a spree to stir up evil ahead the next day’s celebration of paragons of holiness.

The Halloween costume originated to thwart the Devil’s schemes. In medieval times, Christians thought if they took to the streets in scary outfits, they could frighten off wicked spirits sneaking into their villages. It sounds naïve to modern ears, yet Ephesians 6 provides Scriptural basis for their plan. The departure came in literally executing this strategy once a year rather than metaphorically applying it year-‘round. With no slight to All Saints Day as a high point on the Christian calendar, we should celebrate—and emulate—saintly examples every day. And if every day is All Saints Day, it’s All Hallows Eve all the time.

Our Costume of Choice

Believers should always be in costume, staying sure they’ve chosen the proper outfit to ward off the Adversary’s ploys. The full armor of God—head-to-toe protective battle gear—is the believer’s costume of choice according to Paul. He says, “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.” (Ephesians 6.12) Pretending we’re ghosts, goblins, skeletons, zombies, and witches, as our medieval ancestors did, just won’t get it. So, while you’re putting the finishing touches on your Palin drag or your Iron Man suit or any other marvelously clever costume you’ve concocted, it’s good to be doubly sure you’ve also got your believer’s “war clothes” on. Here’s a quick rundown of everything Paul advises us to wear.

Truth Belt

Start with this, because truth holds everything else together. Without it tightly fixed at our middle, whatever we wear hangs too loosely. We risk getting snagged on stray objects, entangled in pointless debates, and dragged down by the rest of our outfit. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” Jesus assures us. (John 8.32) Truth keeps us nimble, unencumbered, and free.

Righteousness Breastplate

Righteousness protects our hearts and other vital organs from injury. When putting on righteousness, however, it’s essential to choose the right kind. Self-righteousness is useless; Isaiah 64.6 describes it as “filthy rags.” Paul writes that he places no confidence in “having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but which is through faith in Christ.” (Philippians 3.9) Before suiting up, it’s wise to double-check what kind of righteousness we’re wearing.

Peace Boots

We don’t wear combat boots. We wear peace boots—we keep our “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6.15) These boots are made for walking, ready at every turn to disarm our opponents’ aggression with kindness and love so wherever we go, peace is sure to follow.

Faith Shield

We wear faith on our sleeve so we can quickly mobilize it to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6.16) Employing this gear requires dexterity, reminding us that “practicing faith” is more than a polite euphemism for following Christ. It’s a daily drill preparing us to use it effectively and protectively when attacked by doubt and derision.

Salvation Helmet

It’s vital to safeguard what we know: salvation is God’s gift to all and we’ve accepted it. The Enemy tries to get inside our heads with malignant doctrine intended for our shame. But with our helmet of salvation secure, we join Paul in saying, “I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him.” (2 Timothy 1.22)

Sword of the Spirit

The final piece of the believers’ costume is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. In Hebrews 4.12, we read, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” God’s Word is flawlessly accurate. It cuts through the confusion and chaos of battle. It separates what matters from foolishness. It's the only weapon we have.

Don’t Leave Home Without It

The believers’ costume is specifically, brilliantly designed for our safety and success. The Scripture says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5.8) Trouble is on the loose. Every day is Halloween. We have to stay in costume. We don’t leave home without it.

Now this handsome bloke's got the right idea--he's dressing up as a believer for Halloween! (But his truth belt looks a little loose and he's forgot his faith shield. That's a problem...)

(Tomorrow: A Great Cloud)


Cuboid Master said...

I love the brilliant use of metaphor and parables in the New Testament. Christ was wise to use such devices to communicate the needs of the spirit. Thank you for employing these same tools in your post...! It was delightful but also profound. Right now, I am tightening my truth belt... :-)

Tim said...

Hi, Cube. At first I resisted this, thinking it might be a little over the top--and then I thought, "It's Halloween! Who isn't over the top?"

Thanks for your comment. I think--particularly in the next few days, more than ever--we should all tighten up our truth belts.