Sunday, April 17, 2011

This Little Light of Mine

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish 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.
~Ephesians 6:13-17

One of the favorite teachings in the Southern Baptist denomination is about putting on the armor of God. It begins in the youngest of classes with teachers putting flaming felt darts on a flannel graph and warning children about sins that are going to be hurled at their tiny bodies when they aren't looking and how they must defend themselves. It continues with songs for the middle grades and sermons for adults. The encouragement is to "suit up" and head into battle. Be prepared. On guard. Ready to fight.

And so begins the struggle I dealt with for years.

The urge to defend God. The instinct to argue. The rationalization that it was perfectly acceptable – and probably best – that I simply write off those who refused to understand God the way I did.

I grew up in a faith that harbored anger for those who lived in a way that was different than what was taught under our very large steeple.

And so the armor was important. Airtight. Snug. Nothing came in and nothing went out of the armor. Made me ready to fight. Whenever and wherever.

And then I came to the realization that no matter what I did, I was not going to to conform to my church's standards for what a "christian" was either. I found my primary relational connections with girls, not boys. And no matter how hard I tried, how hard I prayed for God to make me different, God didn't. No matter how many tears and threats and barters, God just waited me out.

And that armor began to itch. And then I too got written off by those who were supposed to love me most.

I became afraid of God. Of church. Of Christians. They were so ready to "fight the good fight" in the name of Jesus and ready to wage war against whoever and whatever that they forgot that there were hurting human beings outside their breastplates of righteousness and shields of faith.

Years passed. Time healed the wounds between me and God and here is what I think I've come to know now. God doesn't call us to fight. At least not in the manner in which people of faith often find themselves. We are simply called to love God, love others and to stand firm in love.

I've come to believe that most of the issues that christians pour their energies into have absolutely nothing to do with salvation. They have nothing to do with loving people into relationship with God. People of faith are simply called to know what we believe. To let our actions speak for themselves. To be kind. To be Christ-like. And I see no evidence in the Bible of Jesus wearing armor.

These days I have no problem interacting with those who are different from me. I don't get angry when they question my faith. I'm not afraid of those who try to find God in a way different than I do. I don't feel the need to stand in judgment over what I don't understand. I now see it as an opportunity. Instead of feeling the need to defend God I just want to let a little light shine through me.

And here's the other thing I've learned – armor just doesn't let much light out.

Don't be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of God. God will fight for you. All you need to do is hold your peace. ~ Exodus 14:13-14

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