~ by Randy Bushey
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16).
When I was a kid, an older boy in our neighborhood had devised a system so that his pellet gun would fire an odd projectile. He’d load a pin-cherry into the chamber and out would pop the seed at a stinging velocity!
That necessitated defensive action when walking by his home on Greenhill Ave and we quickly took to the adjacent metal garbage can lids, using them as shields – at least until we had fled out of range.
I was reminded of this when thinking about Paul’s directive to take up the shield of faith.
Paul was under house arrest in Rome while writing to the church at Ephesus, and while not likely chained to a soldier as sometimes speculated, he would at least often see and speak to the soldiers monitoring his incarceration.
Shields would typically be reserved for combat activity and rather than hard metal shells they could be covered in bronze but with a leather exterior. The purpose: to extinguish enemy darts and arrows, dipped in pitch and aflame as they hit their intended targets.
In this way, the shield would grab and extinguish these fiery missiles.
But there is another feature of shields that speaks particularly to our desperate need for fellowship in a community of faith.
Even a casual read of the New Testament demonstrates the strong assumption that every Christ-follower is expected to be an active member in a local church.
How far some of us have drifted…
Some expect to be entertained. (Why would I go to church and invest hours every Sunday morning if I don’t come away feeling good?)
Too often, we’ve become spiritual consumers, casual shoppers at church, making little investment or commitment and staying only as long as we favour the music, the parking, the people, the preaching, the programming.
And when we no longer find it aligning with our consumeristic tastes, the pull to move on or stay away allows us to ignore the command – and relinquish the blessing – of meeting together for regular fellowship and support.
…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25 ESV).
As customers, too often we witness those who choose to shop elsewhere – or nowhere at all.
And that brings me back to shields.
In the Greco-Roman world soldiers used shields as a communal protection against attack.
Such soldiers were sometimes called hoplites; rather than fighting in solo hand-to-hand combat such as we see in movies, these soldiers engaged the enemy as a team, as a cohesive unit where each man was protecting himself and the soldier next to him.
To do this, the shields were crucial.
Several soldiers would hook shields in formation and this “wall of shields” would advance on the enemy. The less experienced soldiers would occupy the middle ranks for additional support and security.
Here’s the key: each shield was shaped to cover the soldier carrying the armour, but also the exposed right side of the soldier beside him.
Each was committed to his own protection, but also to that of the warrior to his left.
I have to believe that Paul meant the metaphor of the shield of faith as more than just for individual protection. Our faith, when expressed in community – in worship, preaching, prayer and fellowship – provides individual and corporate protection in a multi-generational setting where we have responsibility for each other.
Takeaway: our era in Christian history is characterized in part by our willingness to split over silly issues or erupt into irreconcilable (in our view) polarities.
We differ and dispute over music styles, dress, political leanings. And in the COVID era, masks, vaccines, and response to government.
Have we the courage for self-analysis before the Lord?
We each have a duty which is indispensably important for the essential well-being of others in our communities of faith.
Some self-diagnostic questions:
Am I a good soldier? Do I wield the shield of faith as the Head of the Church has decreed?
Is my attitude and behaviour such that it will receive Christ’s commendation: Well done, good and faithful servant!
~ graphic from FreeBibleImages.com