Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fearless, or Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict - Ephesians 6 (part 1)

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Ephesians 6:12-13
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

It isn't a flesh-and-blood battle that we engage. Our war is a spiritual war. It is a war of ideas. It is a war of authorities. It is a counter-cultural war. The systems, the patterns, the assumptions of how to live in this world are often contrary to the good news of grace that Jesus offers. When they are, we resist in the power and authority of Jesus. In Christ we resist any and all oppression, injustice, and hatred, whether it is cultural, systemic, natural, or demonic. It is in God's power and God's strength alone that we can resist. And in him, we will resist.

Ephesians 6:18-20
…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Prepare spiritually for a spiritual battle. Remain in the spirit, communicating with God always, in every way. Go to him for everything you need. Never forget that you are not alone in this battle. Remember your brothers-in-arms also, by praying for them every chance you get. Especially remember those who are persecuted, or have been arrested for their active resistance to the powers that be. Pray that they will remain bold and true, and continue to proclaim justice and God's truth without compromise or apology, even behind bars or answering to a judge. They are ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven, as we are, but the natural kingdoms of this world that are hostile to God's truth have put these representatives of Christ in jail. Pray that they would not be afraid in the face of such opposition, and continue to declare the truth of grace, mercy, and justice in Jesus, whatever the circumstance.

The first three chapters of Ephesians remind us that we are seated in Christ. The battle is won in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. We receive this as a gift, through faith. The next two chapters are intensely practical, reminding us that we are walking in Christ. Now that Jesus bought us, and we have been adopted into God's family, we are to therefore be imitators of God, living lives of love, submission, and humble service in our community, and through our community to others.

As the writer turns toward the powers of this world that would be contrary to this radical God filled life of love and service, I am often frustrated that the next action were expressed more actively. We should fight. We should actively make this reality manifest in the lives of those who oppose it.

I do not deny that chapter six is active. The writer isn't saying that we do not fight, or that we do not wrestle. On the contrary, his description of our resistance is militaristic. Clearly, he has actively resisted the contrary powers, since he finds himself in jail for doing so. However, the verb used to describe our battle is not fight, but stand (The pattern I'm identifying of Sit, Walk, Stand came from Watchman Nee). The weapons and armour described are ideological, spiritual, and abstract. His most explicit practical direction for how to fight is to pray. We resist by standing. We fight by praying.

To be honest, I used to be more of a praying man than I am today. Somewhere along the line I just got really frustrated with praying that God would bring justice for the poor and hungry, and just decided I'd rather give them a sandwich myself (Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove's book Becoming the Answer to our Prayers has good things to say about this It's on IVP, of course, because apparently every book I recommend this year is on that label.). As I consider this passage, what I realize is that my actions toward justice today were birthed in the closets of my prayer years ago. If I believe the first five chapters of Ephesians, I must humbly submit that my own service for the poor and oppressed comes through allowing myself to be God's instrument of freedom and blessing in the world. This is his desire for each of us, that we would manifest his nature of grace and love everywhere we go. For this to happen, we need to know his heart. We need those moments of quiet and reflection and meditation and worship in his presence. If I want to continue to grow in effective love and justice and grace and resistance to the powers of this world tomorrow, I need to continue to be on my knees receiving the strength to do so today.

There are two sides to my spiritual preparation for resistance revealed in this chapter. The first is awareness of the true nature of who and what I am resisting. The second is awareness of others who are experiencing persecution for their resistance. In both I stand. In both I pray. All active resistance by those in Christ begins here, otherwise we are battling naked and alone, and we will fail.

In God's armour, we resist in his strength. The battle is already won, and the victory is ours.

Ephesians reminds me that it is in humble prayer that my own authority and power is sacrificed, and exchanged through faith for the power and authority of God necessary to serve and resist as he intends.

My prayer will be intentional and two fold. First, I will pray daily for righteousness and justice for the oppressed and the oppressor. Secondly, I will pray daily for those who are persecuted for their actions of justice and righteousness, proclamation of truth, and resistance to the powers of oppression.

I will continue to be inform myself of the local, national, and international situations where people are resisting the powers, and pray for people by name.

The battle is the Lord's.


vv10-20 - The armour of God is used by faith in God's power and authority, not our own strength.

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