On Armor and Flip-Flops

As we reach the mid-point in the week, many clergy in former mainline denominations are just now starting to think about maybe looking at the lessons appointed for Sunday.  As they click their respective links or open their lectionary guides, they will find two good Old Testament choices, the end of the Bread of Life Discourse, and Ephesians 6:10-20.  Some will chuckle.  Others will put their head in the hands and say a silent prayer.  Still others will close their browsers and forget they ever saw it.  A few will open their hymnals to “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

Ephesians 6:10-20 is Paul’s famous, “put on the armor of God” discourse.

For reasons like the one pictured here, the whole armor of God thing has become a bit of a joke, which I find problematic.  Sure, many Christians have moved away from military imagery in describing the Kingdom of God.  Sure, lots of disciples of Jesus have read the Scriptures and decided that pacifism is the only way to follow Christ.  Sure, the Christian Advertising Machine hasn’t helped.

But if we can get past all of that 21st century, American baggage, I think we can see that what Paul is advising the Ephesians to do isn’t all that crack-pot after all.  It must be noted here that I believe in evil.  I’ve had too many experiences where any number of ridiculous factors tried to stop something that was clearly of the Lord to not think that the devil (or more generically evil forces) is/are actively working against the expansion of the Kingdom of God.  That being said, how do Christians best prepare themselves for times of hardship?

  • Truth
  • Righteousness
  • Faith
  • Salvation
  • Spirit
  • Word of God

Be they armor to protect or weapon to attack, these are the building blocks of an active faith.  That is, I think, what Paul is getting at in this lesson.  I’m just sorry that most of us can’t pull off our own cultural blinders to see that.

One final note.  There seems to be a growing campaign against flip-flops in Church (examples can be found here, here, and here), which I find disheartening.  Earlier this week, one of my friends on either Facebook or Twitter (I can’t find the quote anymore) noted that Paul, for all of his rules and regulations, is quite ambivalent on the role of footwear in the church, “As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.”  I’m more willing to proclaim peace when I am comfortable, and I am comfortable in flip-flops, ergo, flip-flops should be allowed at the altar!



2 thoughts on “On Armor and Flip-Flops

  1. I think you are right on about Paul, as the history of Onward Christian Soldiers reveals. As to flip flops – after I figured out you weren’t talking about changing your mind, I smiled, and thought if you call ’em sandals, you could claim ancient attire.

  2. You make a good point. I think I was the person who jokingly posted back at GenCon77 that I thought open-toed shoes should be prohibited on acolytes. So, guilty as charged. But, all joking aside, here’s my real point. Whether it’s flip-flops or plunging necklines or 4-inch stiletto heels or a dirty alb, if what we are wearing as ministers (lay or ordained) in church distracts people from worshiping God, then we’ve crossed an important barrier. In some church contexts, flip-flops are perfect (e.g. church at the Flora-Bama every Sunday). In those places, no one thinks twice about it…unless Jimmy Buffett is playing in the background. The more important issue I see is for the leaders of a parish to gradually shift the culture of a congregation so that flip-flops or, perhaps more importantly, homeless guests or parishioners of other races or [name your issue] are no longer distractions but are integral to how we express our identity as the body of Christ. Perhaps flip-flops are one way to push the envelope, but in some places it has to start even smaller than that.

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