I used to have this action hero picture of a life of faith – a soldier entering the room solo, guns blazing, taking on the world, felling ten men in one deft move, with no backup.
But the chaos of the last few months has, in every way, shattered my own action hero persona.
I heard a sermon recently which gave me a new perspective on a well-known passage of scripture where Paul writes about putting on our spiritual armor in Ephesians 6.
Reading the passage often evokes image of the solo soldier taking on the enemy alone fearlessly, a la the Hollywood superhero. But, as the pastor suggested, this is not the image Paul intended to give his readers at all.
In verse 16 particularly, Paul writes, “(I)n all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”
For the Roman soldiers from whom Paul drew his imagery for this passage, the shield was not simply a tool intended to protect the individual soldier. The Roman shield, instead, was designed to be linked together with shields of other members of his unit, held both in front and overhead to protect the entire column from attack.
Even when the column advanced, Roman units are often depicted with shields held closely together with only enough room for weapons to be drawn out for attack.
The soldier was never intended to face the enemy alone, and neither are we.
If there’s one thing the social isolation of the last few months I believe has exposed, it is the desperate need of the human heart for community and fellowship. When we’re pinned down by relentless enemy fire, the armor of a single solider is never going to be enough to defend against it, much less counter or overcome it.
Verse 12 tells us our enemy is spiritual, not physical in nature, which means there is not a single person that is strong enough to handle it alone. God did not design us to. As a body, a single member was never meant to operate independently.
As believers, we need to be willing to reach out to one another, both when we feel overcome in the fight, and when we see another overwhelmed by attack.
It calls to mind one of my favorite cinematic scenes.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” Frodo Baggins, sapped of strength mere steps completing his task of casting the ring into the fire to destroy it, can no longer carry on. So his best friend, Samwise Gamgee, knowing he cannot carry the ring himself, instead lifts up his friend and carries him up the fiery mountain. Sam is determined to help his exhausted companion see the journey through to completion.
On our journey of faith, sometimes we are Frodo and sometimes we are Sam. Sometimes we need to be lifted up; sometimes we are the lifter of another who cannot carry on.
Either way, we were never meant to walk the road alone.
Make sure you link your shield together with the rest of the body.
Daniel Kiewel is a reporter with the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.