Violence and Armor

By Annette Brownlee

Feast of St. James of Jerusalem

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 10:16-22

16 “I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you at that time, 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Sibling will betray sibling to death and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”


Today’s gospel is one of those sets of teachings by Jesus that jumps out at us and almost taunts us with its unadorned harshness. Violence, imprisonments, deadly divisions, and betrayals in families. The violence described here can be summarized in Jesus’ declaration in 10:34, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

What is Jesus talking about? He is describing the world. He’s not talking about who is a Christian and who isn’t. He’s trying to explain the situation within which we are all living, and to which Christians are called to respond in a particular way. The world, he says, is reaching a screaming pitch of injustice and evil; and into that world comes one who is good, one who is loving and righteous, just and innocent; into this world comes God himself. And against this God, the world rebels with rage and violence. This is our world, Jesus says. This is the world that contains you and me. We are not apart from this world, we are in it, informed by it, living with it.

Here, in this world — not apart from it — he calls us to endure. How do we do that? I have always been struck that when Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God, it is for one reason: so that we may stand in the face of the evil one (Eph. 6:10-17). Simply to stand upright without losing our footing or bearings. Every piece of gear is for this one purpose: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes for proclaiming a gospel of peace, a shield of faith, a helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. In this violent world which rebels against God, we clothe ourselves in Christ, willing to value what God values, even in the midst of evil.

The Rev. Dr. Annette Brownlee is chaplain, director of field education, and professor of pastoral theology at Wycliffe College, Toronto. She also assists and preaches at St. Paul’s L’Amoreaux in Scarborough.

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Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo
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