ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH AUGUST 23, 2015
YOUR INNER WARRIOR
Ephesians 6: 10 – 20; John 6: 56 – 63
I want to begin today by speaking about “archetypes”. An archetype is the underlying idea from which all things of the same kind are based. Archetypes are broad – they describe the essence or the fundamental energy of a category of people. For example, if I say, “she’s a little princess” you conjure up an image of someone with certain characteristics. There are many archetypes and every archetype has various expressions. If I say “monarch” you may think “Queen Elizabeth” but remember the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland – more like Bloody Mary than ER. The Queen archetype can also be embodied by people who are not royalty but rule the sphere the live in. Other archetypes are healers, mystics, rebels, jesters, creators, innocents, caregivers, explorers – the list goes on and on. Often archetypes appear in fairy tales, Disney movies, books and art. Each one of us embodies various aspects of different archetypes – I can easily think of people in our congregation who are innocent (pure of heart), regal, humourous, creative and caring.
Perhaps the most controversial archetype within the Church is The Warrior. Many Christian pacifists oppose war and therefore oppose warriors. Some Christians shun the warrior archetype (WA) because they believe disciples of Jesus are to be weak, meek and docile. However the WA is misunderstood if it’s applied only to war mongers and bullies. Warriors may be policemen protecting people or firemen saving lives. They may fight for justice, stand up for the weak or seek to overturn corrupt systems. There’s room in Christian theology for the warrior archetype. Jesus embodied the warrior archetype when he took a whip and cleared the temple and again on the cross when he faced evil and died on our behalf. Paul was a warrior who went into hostile territory again and again in order to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Many churches have plaques on the wall in memoriam of warriors who fought for the freedom and well-being of others. The positive essence of the warrior archetype is virtue, strength, courage and heroism – a willingness to “lay down their lives for their friends”. Everyone needs an inner warrior we can draw on when holy strength is needed.
The archetype of the warrior is what Paul elicits when he encourages the Christians in Ephesus to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6: 10). Paul, who had suffered greatly for his faith and was no stranger to temptation, knew the need for Christians of his day to tap into the fierceness of the Holy Spirit. Christians need not only loving, forgiving, compassionate souls but also robust, impenetrable, enduring, lionhearted spirits. The reason Paul encouraged this inner warrior was because the church of his day not only in danger losing their lives but also their eternal souls. Facing such discrimination and maltreatment day after day took strength. Weak Christians could easily deny their commitment to follow Jesus. The situation called for “muscular Christianity”. The WA was necessary. So Paul encouraged the Ephesians to “put on the full armour of God” (vs. 11) But he didn’t mean physical armour for a physical war. These Christians were facing a much greater enemy than their persecutors. They were not fighting against “flesh and blood” (vs 12). They were up against the schemes of the Devil himself. Paul saw their persecutors as pawns in the malicious plots of someone and something greater than any person. He wrote, “Our struggle is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this sinister world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (vs. 12) They were fighting against unseen principalities and powers; against malicious forces that are opposed to the holiness and rule of God. We often reduce these evil energies to a cartoonish humanoid form – we picture Satan with his horns and tail and his minions whispering bad ideas into our ears. In scripture Satan is no joke; he is the leader of all beings and powers that are demonic. Paul is saying there is a whole spiritual realm and within it there is stuff going on that we have little understanding of – there are cosmic powers and malicious forces which are beyond our imaginations. There are spirits and energies which are perilous to Christians who are weak and unprepared. Take them seriously.
I’m coming to believe that paradox is woven through everything we know to be true. Paradox is when two contradictory truths exist at the same time. On truth is that Christ has already defeated Satan and the forces of evil, sin and death. “Jesus took on flesh and blood so that through death he would destroy the one who had power over death, that is: the devil” Hebrews 2:14 “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I (Jesus) have conquered the world!” John 16:33. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things in subjection under Jesus’ feet.” I Corinthians 15: 26 & 27 Not only do we know how the story ends, the story has already ended. Jesus has won. If that’s the case why did Paul tell the Ephesians to prepare for spiritual warfare? Why are we told in many places in the NT to look out for Satan? That’s the paradox: Satan is defeated and yet he is still active. Let’s look at the example of a real war. On D-Day (June 6, 1944) when the allied forces took the beaches of Normandy the tide of the war turned. It was this invasion and sealed the fate of the Nazi’s and won the war. But the battle still continued on. It wasn’t until late August that France was liberated and it wasn’t until May of 1945) that the Allies formally accepted the surrender of the Nazi’s. Some people just can’t admit defeat so the war drags on even though they’ve lost. Good Friday was D-Day for Satan yet he battles on in vain.
Our world is much like the world of Paul’s day. Christian persecution, both subtle and overt, is increasing. We know of the sufferings of Christians around the world, but even in the West there’s a spirit of hostility towards the church. In BC when Bethany Paquette applied for a job she was attacked in email correspondence because she is a graduate of a Christian university. BMO has established “Legal Leaders for Diversity” which includes the leaders of some massive organizations (Bell, Dell, Coca Cola); ironically LLD is discriminating against Christians whom they deem to be non-inclusive. British Airways recently told an employee she could not wear a cross to work. And a minister in the US was sentenced to 1 year in prison for declining to marry a gay couple. What is disturbing about these cases is the hate-filled spirit behind them. Apparently we’re up against sinister forces in cosmic realms.
However, for the average Christian the attacks of demonic powers are not nearly so overt. Our battles have more to do with temptation. Things like envy, pride, resentment and prejudice are much more likely to pull us away from Christ than persecution. Most of us can think of a situation in which forgiveness is required but we hold on to our anger and hurt. Or people tell us it’s silly and archaic to believe in Jesus and our faith is weakened by confusion. Maybe we struggle with feelings of abandonment or betrayal because of the way our lives have unfolded. A spirit enters us that we can’t shake off. Sin can be as brief as cursing out another driver or as pervasive as a bitter divorce. Satan knows our weaknesses and milks them for all they’re worth.
Spiritual attacks need spiritual defenses. Paul tells us to “suit up” – to put on “the whole armour of God.” We build up our inner warrior as we draw strength and integrity from the Holy Spirit. Drawing from military images of his day, Paul said Christians need breastplates, helmets, boots, a shield, a belt and even a sword. Notice most of those things have to do with protection but the last one is for an offensive strategy. We don’t always shelter ourselves from Satan, sometimes we stand and fight. But this armour isn’t physical, it’s spiritual. Our armour consists of salvation, and faith – most of us have a shield and helmet but we need more. Salvation and faith are supported by truth and righteousness. We also need boots that move us out into the world to proclaim the gospel of peace. And our weapon, the sword of the Spirit, is the Word of God. Paul insists we need the whole armour of God. Salvation and faith tell us what side we’re on. Truth and righteousness give us strength, certainty and holiness. Proclaiming the gospel and reading the Scriptures give us an offensive advantage. Leave one piece off and you leave yourself vulnerable. Where are the chinks in your armour? Where do the flaming arrows of the evil one get through to wound your spirit? What pieces of armour are you missing? There’s a battle going on and our enemies, the spiritual forces of evil, are formidable, deadly and unseen. Be ready at all times to take them on. Find your inner warrior and face whatever Satan can throw at you with courage and confidence, remembering always, “you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4)