Christianity is an embodied faith which believes the world we live in and the bodies God has given us shall be made new at the day of resurrection. Yet today the concern expressed for our appearance far outweighs the concern for our character. In the same way we apply cosmetics to our bodies daily, the good habits of prayer, asking God to fill us with his Holy Spirit, searching the Bible and seeking the welfare of others are unimpeachable components of Christian living.
I remember a holiday some time ago when the allure of scorching weather, a day at the beach and a rush with the children to get into the sea led me only to swipe parts of a pale white body with sun cream. I was only in direct sunlight for two hours. The pain, by contrast, lasted days. Putting on the armour of God daily requires patience, but we live far longer with the consequences of not putting it on properly.
Paul says in Ephesians 6 that the Christian fight is not against real human beings and in this way distinguishes the Christian faith from religion which turns spiritual warfare into human violence. The battle is, instead, against ‘the rulers, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.’ This reiteration of evil shows how prevalent a force he perceived it. It is cosmic in scope and pulses through human society like a lethal toxicant – from the Congolese jungles to the Siberian gulags – and we are more prone to sin than the carefully shielded and structured lives we live would like to suggest.
I think most Christians suffer from loss of concentration in their faith, an inability to sustain the kind of focus they feel they are called to. They want to do the right thing but often find themselves reflecting on days where they seem to go absent without leave in their faith. Most of us sympathise with this dilemma. The call to put on the armour of God daily is a helpful way of dealing with this. The soldier who puts on his armour remains alert to the challenges the day affords, but he also has confidence that the attention he gave to his kit earlier on may protect him against the unexpected. For the Christian, simple attention to faith at pivotal moments of the daily routine is the key to winning the spiritual battle we are caught in, whether we like it or not