Rev. Katherine Todd
2 Chronicles 20:12b-17 Ephesians 6:10-17
2 Chronicles 20:12b-17
For we are powerless against this great multitude that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. Then the spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the middle of the assembly. He said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them; they will come up by the ascent of Ziz; you will find them at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel. This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
I find this imagery of the armor of God both empowering and unsettling.
Through-out church history, we find a stained path – of things done that we should not have done, things said that should not have been said. There is a whole bloody past of atrocities committed in God’s name. But all this is easy for us to say – for us who stand on the shoulders of all who have come before – for us who are the beneficiaries of those who paid for our freedoms with their sweat and blood.
In hindsight, we can see what our ancestors couldn’t – the world they were creating. In hindsight, we can see what our ancestors couldn’t – the cumulative knowledge we have gained to this very day.
There is many a victim in our world who has been battered in the name of God. While the crusades and inquisitions have passed, thanks be to God, harm done in God’s name has endured. We have eviscerated people cultures in the name of Christ. We have confused Christ with our own cultures, imposing our ways upon others in the name of God. We have used isolated scripture passages, most often without scholarship, to condemn and to judge one another. We have taken verses out of context and interpreted them through the lenses of our own experiences, culture, economy, and world view. And in far too many cases, we’ve not even realized we were wearing lenses at all.
Now when I say “we,” I realize not everyone of us has done all these things recently or perhaps ever. I say “we,” including myself in collective humanity, to acknowledge that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. I say “we” because usually we have all played a part in these social situations, to some degree or another. I say “we” because healing begins when we stop pointing the finger and stand up and take responsibility for righting the wrongs.
We as a people have used God to promote our social world views. We have used God to promote our agendas. We have used God.
Wearing Christ like a gold star, we have used Christ to elevate ourselves. We have reasoned backwards that if God has chosen us, we must be good and others must be bad. We have sought to sort and label one another – between those who we believe are condemned and those we believe are saved, those who are in and those who are out.
The problem in all these things is that we have taken the place of God. We have judged, AS IF we are in a position to condemn and to judge. We have sorted, AS IF we can see and understand rightly. …all this despite Christ’s warnings: “judge not, that you may not be judged…” All this despite God’s word that declares “God’s ways are higher than our ways and God’s thoughts than our thoughts.”
Clearly WE do not have what it take to see and determine rightly. And yet we try and try again.
Now, does the fact that we can never fully see and understand God in this lifetime mean we shouldn’t try. Absolutely not! We are called to seek God’s face. We are called to spend time in the Word of God, learning through prayer and study.
But in all things, we must remember that God is God, and we are not.
Can we speak definitively for God? Probably not.
But we can speak to our experiences of God. We can comfort how we have been comforted. We can love as we have been loved.
And so, in returning to the scripture verses at hand – these verse about battling and armor – we recognize the thorny weight of history around these images of battle.
But let’s take a deeper look.
This scripture verse talks about battling the spiritual forces of evil and distinctly says that our battles are not against flesh and blood. Our fight is truly not with one another.
Let me say that again: our battle is not with one another.
So for all the fighting we are doing amongst ourselves, this verse does NOT support that. The battle is NOT against one another but with the spiritual forces of evil.
So if we are using the Word of God to batter and tear at one another, we are misusing the Word of God.
If we are using Scripture to condemn one another, we are misusing the word of God.
If we are using Scripture to sort and judge one another, we are misusing the word of God.
Secondly, you’ll notice that the battle is not ours, but Gods. This is a great relief. We are not the beginning or the end of this story. We are not the first to battle temptation and sin and evil. We will not be the last, but the battle belongs to God.
This is a great comfort to me when I am tempted to believe that the weight of it all is hanging on my shoulders alone. We are not alone, but we are following God’s lead, in God’s strength, in God’s way.
And God equips us. We don’t wield the battle tools of this world.
Our belt is truth.
Our breastplate is righteousness, the righteousness that comes from Christ alone.
Our shoes are whatever help us proclaim the Gospel of peace.
Our shield and defense is faith. Trusting and believing in God, we ward off the attacks of the enemy.
Our helmet is salvation – that free gift of God, on which our whole life rests, and in which we are able to stand with confidence and hope.
Our sword is of the Spirit, and is the Word of God. God’s Word is power. God’s Word stopped a storm. God’s Word brought the dead to life. God’s Word is life and power. God’s Word is how we take on the evils of this world.
So as we face the disappointments, the challenges, the frustrations, and the evils of this world, let us not forget that the battle is the Lords, and that the battle is not against other people but against the spiritual forces of evil. As God is for us, so we are for one another!
Star Wars is an epic series about the forces of good and evil. In it we see unlikely heroes taking on those under the power of the dark side. But what this series does well is in reminding us that even those most hardened by sin and evil, are still being called to light and love and life. Even those who have done the most harm are not beyond redemption. Vador is not too far gone to love and save the life of his son.
And that is exactly what Christ has shown us. God is calling each one. God looked out at all God had made and called it “good.” Who are we to call bad what God has called good? Who are we to condemn who God is calling?
When we find ourselves temped and tried and tested… When we find ourselves pressed on every side… When we find ourselves focusing on the people who have done us wrong, let us remember that God loves that one. Let us remember that the battle is not with them but with things much bigger than all of this we can see.
And so we do not fight against one another. We fight FOR one another and against the spiritual powers of evil.
We do not fight as this world fights. We fight in God’s way and with God’s gifts.
We do not fight in our own strength. But we fight in the power of God’s strength.
Let us not be dismayed.
Though evil is all around us. We are not alone. The battle is God’s. And our God has equipped us. So let us actively use all these good gifts of God and BE ABOUT the good fight, trusting that goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, lightness is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death.