For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
I often have to remind myself that people aren’t the problem.
Yes, we all have free will and we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Other people’s choices and sins can hurt me; just like my choices and sins can hurt others.
But God tells me to love people, even when they’re hurting me.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Is Jesus telling me to be a doormat and just let people hurt me? Of course not.
Jesus tells me to love the people who are attacking me. The Holy Spirit, through Paul, tells me how to do it without being damaged.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
The breastplate of righteousness protects me from being mortally wounded by someone who is close to me. The shield of faith protects me from attacks of those who don’t want me getting that close.
If God tells me to love my neighbor and my neighbor is calling me names or yelling insults at me or spreading lies about me, I use my shield of faith to absorb those attacks so I can stand my ground. It allows me to keep loving them.
God gave me the shield of faith so I could love those who are hard to love. He told me to go out into the dangerous world and love His children. But some of His children are so scared to let anyone close that they attack everyone who tries.
I’ve done that myself. I’ve used a sarcastic attitude and sharp tongue to keep people at a distance. I didn’t want anyone getting close enough to hurt me and I made sure they didn’t by making the territory around my heart a dangerous place to be.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
When God tells me to love someone who’s attacking me, I have to be smart enough to defend myself. But I don’t have to hit back.
When someone shoots flaming arrows at me, they’re trying to inflict maximum damage. They’re not just trying to stop me from moving forward; they’re trying to make me retreat.
But God tells me to stand my ground and He gives me the equipment I need to do that. He gives me the shield of faith.
So, how does faith protect me?
I John 5:4
for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
And what is faith?
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
When I love someone who’s attacking me, I’m believing that regardless of what it looks like, they’re worthy to be loved. God created them just like He created me, and He promised them the same peace He promised me.
The shield of faith reminds me of these things. Because until I’m able to look past the attack and see the person, it’s hard for me to love them and pray for them.
I also have to believe that God will use my prayers and my persistence in loving them to show them His love.
And I have to obey His command to love them even if I never see the desired result.
II Corinthians 5:7
For we live by faith, not by sight.
My shield is faith, because I may never see the person I’m loving and praying for change. I may never see them lay down their arms and receive His love.
But I love them anyway. And I leave the results to God.
How has loving others stretched your faith?
Photo credit: 15299
This post is the fifth in a series on the Armor of God. The first four posts are linked below.
Replacing Emotional Walls with the Armor of God
The Belt of Truth Strengthens My Soul
The Breastplate of Righteousness Is a Healthy Boundary
Sturdy Shoes on a Foundation of Peace