Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour 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. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench 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.
When we read the passage about the armour of God, we understand that the sword and shield and so on are all figurative, and yet we still go out looking for literal enemies. Today I would like to draw your attention to the third sentence of this passage, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
It’s amazing how we can hold two completely contradictory beliefs in our heads: we are called to love our neighbor and so and so is my enemy, or it’s us vs them.
We have been equipped for battle, but our enemy is not to be found in other human beings. This misunderstanding is how the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition or pogroms have been carried out by self-proclaimed Christians who have taken off their spiritual armour and replaced it with steel. Whenever we tear down other human beings, we are engaging in friendly fire. Our real enemy is the impulse to believe the worst of others (therefore, fasten the belt of truth!), to slander and mock (put on the breastplate of righteousness!), to provoke and divide (for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace!), to live in fear of the “other” (take the shield of faith!), to judge (take the helmet of salvation!), and to sharpen our tongues against each other (and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God).
Therefore, guard yourselves! Not against muslims or jews or immigrants or homosexuals, but against the impulse to see an enemy where God sees his beloved children.