…be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might (Ephesians 6:10, English Standard Version, here and following). Mischievous witness to Jesus Christ takes energy. Alone, we don’t have the necessary strength. Happily, we don’t journey alone. We walk the difficult path of freedom in response, each day, to a gracious invitation from Jesus to join him. With his words of invitation come the power of the Spirit to do them.
Paul tells us to stand against the schemes of the devil (v. 11), withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (v. 13) and then he immediately repeats, Stand therefore… (v. 14). Through these words of Paul, Jesus today is calling us to stand up, stand out, stand tall, and stand firm with him.
Note that Paul is encouraging us to stand out rather than blend in. The whole point of living as a conventional Christian is to blend in with our conventional Olympian neighbors. That way we get all the good feelings that come with believing we are right with Christ without having to endure any of the hostility that comes from standing out with him.
At the same time, taking a stand does not mean taking the offensive. I sometimes hear brothers in Christ speak of taking a city or state or province for Christ. We don’t have to take anything for Christ. It’s already his. We need simply witness to his lordship. That’s what standing firm means: witnessing to the true lordship of Jesus despite adversity rather than caving in to the pleasant but false claims to lordship by false Olympian gods. As mischievous witnesses to Jesus, we simply need to stand tall with him.
Why stand tall rather than sit and relax? To stand for Jesus is to stand against the devil and his minions. These are our true enemies. To begin with, Paul tells us we are opposed to, and opposed by, the devil (v. 11) or the evil one (v. 16).
Paul then identifies the minions of this devil as the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (v. 12). These spiritual powers of evil include the six false gods of Olympianity: (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, goddess of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption.
We may expect the devil’s opposition to our witness to Christ to come from three directions. First, from the six Olympian gods. Second, from those aspects of our society and culture, especially the Olympian media, that express and encourage loyalty to them. Third, from our own little hearts of darkness which identify with them.
Note those whom Paul says are not our enemies: flesh and blood (v. 12). In other words, human beings are not our enemies. If they speak and act like it, it is only because they remain under the spell of spiritual powers of evil.
Through his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus broke the power of their spell. He disenchanted us. Through the life-transforming words he speaks to us, and to others through us, he enables us to act like the liberated human beings we are. He enables us to speak the truth with love to those who act like enemies in order to free them from the spell that leads them to act that way. Other human beings aren’t our true enemies. The spiritual powers of evil are. Jesus calls us to show our love for apparently human enemies by freeing them from the spell of their true enemies and ours.
Paul shares with us a list of weapons which we may use to defend ourselves: truth, righteousness, the readiness given by the gospel of peace, faith, and salvation (v. 14-17a). He also mentions the one offensive weapon we may use: the word of God (v. 17b). Notice here an absence of weapons like guns, bombs, propaganda, or even gossip. The weapons Paul mentions do not harm human beings. They harm powers of evil. We rightly stand out with him when we remember this.
Paul tells us to stand firm using only weapons of the spirit by praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication (v. 18). Prayer: speaking with God and being spoken to by God. When Jesus speaks to us, he enables us to open our minds and hearts to him. His Spirit, burning brightly in our hearts, then enables us to hear and obey Christ’s words to us and enjoy standing firm with him.
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