The Armor of God: Part 4 - The Gospel Shoes
by Aneel Aranha
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish 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. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:11-18)
Continued from Part 3: The Breastplate of Righteousness
During wartime, soldiers at the battle-front sleep with their shoes on. Should the need arise, they are ready to spring to their feet and swing into action immediately. A soldier who does not have his shoes on will waste valuable moments searching for them, and then, in his haste to put them on, might not secure them properly. This could cost him his life, as well as the lives of others.
Military sandals (caligae) were as important as armour, because the legions won wars by fast marches as much as by battle. These boots were strong and well-ventilated. with patterns of iron hobnails especially designed to take weight and withstand miles of marching.
In the battle that we fight — against creatures that are not of flesh and blood — it is souls that we have to save. To be able to do this, we need our shoes on at all times: our gospel shoes. This is, very simply, the word of God. To be able to live it and to take it to others, travelling over long distances and over different types of terrain.
It is an embarrassing fact that most Christians — especially Catholics — don't know the word of God. Other than a few parables that we learned as children, and perhaps some scattered knowledge of the miracles that Jesus performed, we know little else. Consequently, far from having "our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace", we walk around barefoot and within moments are sitting by the wayside nursing our aching, swollen feet. The enemy doesn't even bother giving us a second glance; he knows we pose no threat to him.
We have to know the word of God. We have to read it, meditate upon it, study it, understand it and finally preach it [see The Bible and the Art of Jigsaw Puzzles for help in getting started]. It all takes time and one should not be unduly hasty. Like any pair of shoes, the gospel shoes first need to be broken in and this can be done only by wearing them for a while until they become comfortable. It is a foolish person who sets out on a long walk wearing a pair of brand new shoes.
Once the shoes are broken in, the long walks become obligatory. We are required to walk for great distances, living our lives the way God asks us to live them. There is no danger of the shoes wearing out because, unlike regular shoes, these get stronger and more comfortable with use, and quickly become like a second skin. When this happens, the confidence that you get is tremendous. No longer do you feel like running away from life or from the troubles it brings; on the contrary you are eager to meet them because the gospel shoes give you that ability. You also obtain peace, because the gospel is a gospel of peace.
If you were to ask me what I consider to be the most precious benefit that I obtained by becoming a Christian, I would say that it is this peace; a peace that is pretty much synonymous with Jesus, and a peace that he himself gives to us.
For he himself is our peace ...
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
It took me a long while to achieve this peace, largely due to the unceasing efforts of the enemy to trip me up, but attain it I did. And when I attained it, I found it to be a peace that transcended all understanding, just as the gospel promised (Phil 4:7). It is also extremely liberating, and it frees you — like few things can — of the chains that tie you down to the world.
Once we have achieved this peace, it becomes almost natural to want to give it to others. And you can tell a true Christian by the manner in which he does so. If you see a man walking in peace among his brothers, spreading the word of God with love, you will know that the gospel shoes that he wears is a perfect fit. If, however, you come across a man who cannot live in amity with his brothers, and is always engaged in doctrinal or theological conflict, you can be certain that he is wearing the wrong shoes.
It doesn't take much doing to spread the gospel of peace. As it says in Proverbs 16:7, "When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him." This is, however, not a universal truth. Very often we will come across people whose hearts are so hard, they aren't interested in peace. Scripture is very clear on what we are supposed to do in such cases.
If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. (Matthew 10:12-13)
And finally, there is one more thing you can do with your gospel shoes. On your journeys you will often come across the enemy who will try to harass you. The feet are a weapon too. Kick him!
May the Spirit be with you.
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Copyright © 2004 Aneel Aranha. All rights reserved. Pictures and text for 'The Shoes' from Ancient Rome by Simon James (Eyewitness Books). All rights reserved.