By David Baumann
A Reading from Ephesians 6:10-20
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For 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. 13Therefore 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. 14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
In the second book of C. S. Lewis’s fantastic Space Trilogy, the protagonist, Elwin Ransom, is called to assist the first woman of Venus to resist the seductions of Satan, who comes in the body of a man Ransom knew on earth as Weston. Satan attempts to cause the woman to disobey the command that God had given her, and thereby bring about the fall of Venus as he caused the fall of our own planet. Ransom argues and argues without effect, and is utterly shocked when God reveals that he is to fight Weston physically. He, a middle-aged university professor, is to battle another such man to the death.
For several generations, Western Christians have considered discipleship to be mostly about learning. We offer and attend classes, read books, go to seminars, and participate in webinars. That’s all good, but it’s not enough. More than learn, we are also to work — as “athletes,” says Paul. Even more than that, we are to fight. Full discipleship, then, requires learning, working, and fighting.
Today’s lesson is only one of many in which disciples are not only called but commanded to fight. It is a vital characteristic of our faith that most of us have forgotten, ignored, or trivialized; yet it is essential. Where many disdain belief in “spiritual forces of evil,” such conviction is dangerously naïve. It is assuredly unscriptural, untraditional, and inconsistent with the experience of believers of previous ages as well as in other parts of the world today. When ignored or forgotten, moral and spiritual evil grows gradually but inexorably over individuals and cultures. Could it be that many Western Christians are soft, and therefore easy prey? Today’s lesson assures us that we must fight; and if we fight, with God’s help, we will win.
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of Raiwind (Pakistan) and the Rt. Rev. Azad Marshall
Diocese of Cuba and the Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado Del Carpio
Diocese of Kubwa (Nigeria) and the Rt. Rev. Duke Akamisoko
Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y.