Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the
devil. For 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.
--Ephesians 6:12-13 NRSV
My family and I have been watching the Star Wars TV show The Mandalorian on Disney+. If you are not into Star Wars (and if not, why not?), The Mandalorian looks and feels a lot like an old western only with spaceships and laser blasters instead of horses and six shooters. The main character is from the planet Mandalore--hence the name of the show--where a race of fierce warriors once lived. These warriors were known by their impenetrable armor made of one of the toughest metals in the galaxy. Our hero--similar to “the man with no name” in westerns--travels the galaxy encased in his armor battling evil and saving the local populace from the bad guys. (Oh yeah, there’s a baby Yoda too, but if you’re not into Star Wars, then that probably won’t mean much to you.)
I’ve often wished for a kind of armor that could protect me from nasty remarks, manipulation, betrayal and pain. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. The myth of the invulnerable hero permeates our culture from old westerns to John McClane of Die Hard, from Lara Croft of Tomb Raider to Daenerys Targaryen of Game of Thrones. Who doesn’t want to live as if all the hurtful stuff that comes at us in all of our relationships doesn’t really scratch our surfaces? So, we learn survival skills such as wearing “masks” which enable us to present an image to the outside world different from our inner reality; pushing intimacy away so we don’t have the risk of being hurt; putting others down before we can be on the receiving end of a put down and more.
There’s another kind of armor in the TV show The Mandalorian: the armor worn by the stormtroopers of the evil Galactic Empire. The bad guys’ armor is comically ineffective. All it takes is one smack from even the unlikeliest of sources to knock a stormtrooper out of action. An attentive viewer of the Star Wars franchise might wonder why they even bother wearing it, since it doesn’t really protect them at all. Our emotional defenses are a lot like the stormtroopers’ armor--it may make us feel safe but ultimately it just a bunch of heavy useless junk to carry around.
For the real armor--the kind the title character of The Mandalorian wears--we have to look to a deeper source of protection. The Apostle Paul called it “the whole armor of God.” It’s too bad that so many Christians down through the centuries have taken these verses literally and as an excuse to become crusaders shedding blood in God’s name. Paul actually subverts the idea of armor and says our protection comes not from violence or the threat of it, not from literal weapons, helmets and breastplates, but from God. The armor that really keeps us safe is made up of things like truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and Spirit.
God did not create us to be action heroes wandering the Wild West or the galaxy immune from harm. No, God created us to be in relationship with one another and to take the risks which come with being vulnerable with one another. Of course that means we will be hurt but we can bear those pains because our strength and assurance comes from our perfect God rather than a misguided belief that others will be perfect or an even worse belief that we have to be perfect. God designed us to love courageously, show mercy recklessly and give generously with the full knowledge that living this way invites betrayal, ridicule and pain, but our identity and security is found in the God who created us rather than in the actions of others.
Pick your armor carefully. One kind is useless but the other will sustain you through the difficulties of this life.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.
6601 Northwest 72nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64151 | 816-741-1851