The Full Armor, Including Our Holy Boots
Ephesians 6:10-17 tells us to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 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 (your holy boots). 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.”
The Full Armor, Big and Small
When my children were little, I used to dress them every morning in the full armor of God. I would pull their shirts over their heads and say, “Here is your breastplate of righteousness:” I would pull up their pants and tell them to “Gird up your loins with the truth.” When I put their socks and shoes on them, I would tell them to walk in the Gospel of peace, the word of God.” I kissed their heads for the helmet of salvation, and we high-fived one way for the shield of faith and the other way for the sword of the spirit.
In truth, I still have those words written on the mirror in the room where I get dressed, along with the reminder that “love should be my underwear,” well, because we put on love first. Right?
I believe that we should prepare, in the ways we are given, for whatever the day will bring.
Those Holy Boots
Not long ago, I was thinking about the armor of God, and it occurred to me that we spend a lot of time in conversation about the helmet, the breastplate, the sword and the shield, but we don’t talk too much about the “footwear,” and in a lot of circumstances, footwear can make all the difference.
Athletes wear specialized footwear according to their sports. Some athletic shoes have cleats on the bottom or some sort of tread to ensure stable footing and effective movement. I recently heard a 6th grader say to a friend on the basketball team, “Dude! You have to have basketball shoes!” Traction and arch support seem to be important even to elementary school players.
Workmen often wear steel-toed boots to protect their feet and prevent terrible results of accidents. The boots are strong to protect the toes from injury. Did you ever break a toe? It seems like such a tiny part of the body, but a broken or sore toe can make movement very difficult.
Nurses need comfortable shoes with good traction to enable them to be on their feet for long hours and to sometimes stand sure-footed on sticky or slippery ground.
Soldiers’ boots are designed for leg and core support, plus protection from snakes or terrain while walking long distances, and for protection from the weather.
Even us teachers need to pay attention to our footwear because we are on our feet so many hours a day, and often during those hours we are moving from desk to desk, student to student, even room to room.
Regardless of the profession or how perfect the footwear happens to be, it has to fit. Shoes that don’t fit are more of a hindrance than a help.
When Primo Levi wrote about life in Auschwitz he revealed that first of all, there was a very real, physical importance of footwear as applied to life in the camp. Prisoners often slept with their shoes under their heads like pillows, because when it came to survival, the attitude was likely “every man for himself,” and decent shoes were hard to come by. Shoes were confiscated by the millions when inmates first arrived in concentration camps. When they were again permitted to pick up a pair of shoes, there was no guarantee that the shoes would fit, or even that they would be a matched pair. If a prisoner’s shoes didn’t fit properly, he was in danger of getting sores and possibly an infection, and was made more susceptible to the “selections.” Prisoners who couldn’t work were exterminated. Shoes symbolized health and life.
Those shoes didn’t only have a practical meaning. They also symbolized freedom and the ability to move around and possibly escape. The deprivation of the prisoners’ shoes was a powerful symbol that their freedom had been taken away. And for the ones taken directly to the gas chambers, rising mounds of shoes were a stark statement that those shoes would never again be needed.
Shoes are important!
The Holy Boots of the Gospel
If we consider this in the context of the scriptures in Ephesians, we understand that since the surrounding scriptures are about the armor of a warrior, the boots are also those of a warrior.
“Stand firm … with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”
In the first century, a soldier’s shoes were distinctive from other types of shoes. Roman soldiers wore heavy military sandals called caligae, “half boot and half sandal.” The upper part of the shoes were constructed with openwork designs, which gave good ventilation. Many straps allowed adjustment to fit the peculiarities of an individual’s foot. The soles were made of several layers of leather and “were clenched with hobnails, arranged in patterns. These hollow metal studs provided a firm grip on the soil. They dug into the ground and kept the soldier sure-footed and stable when holding his ground or advancing against an enemy. Because combat was always “close” and hand-to-hand, firm footing was essential.
Holy Boots for Holy Ground
According to Pastor Dale Crawley Sr. in his article “Crippled by Chaos,” “Of all the things the enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy in your life … ‘peace’ is almost always at or near the top of his list. He intentionally stirs up discord, division, disruption, and disturbance, both within you and around you. He is the lord of chaos and confusion, using every opportunity to upset your sense of well-being and stability. He wants you uneasy, unbalanced, filled with anxiety, worry, and turmoil. He wants to take away your ability to stand firm or move at your own will. He wants to take away your peace!”
So we shoe our feet with the Gospel of peace, the word of God. But what do shoes have to do with the gospel of peace? To answer this question we have to understand what “gospel of peace” means. The word “gospel” means “good news.” The word peace means not only “peace” … but also “wholeness” and “salvation.” It has a similar meaning with the Hebrew word “shalom.” The gospel of peace is none other than the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ! Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is important because the enemy always aims to separate believers from God. It is God who gives believers the strength to put on the full armor and the power to conquer evil.
We must put on the gospel of peace by remembering that Christ died to bridge the chasm between us and God.
Crossing the Bridge in Our Holy Boots
Remember the toll bridges in our area? A price had to be paid at the toll booth to be able to cross the bridge. If a person could not pay, he had no right to cross. It’s the same with that bridge that leads to God. We can’t pay that toll, so we have no right of our own to cross.
But, hallelujah! Jesus paid the toll so we could cross the bridge. He paid the penalty for our sins and gave us His righteousness so that we could know God and walk, not hesitantly, but boldly before the throne of grace.
Soldiering on in Our Holy Boots
The Gospel gives us divine confidence that when the battle for souls rages, and the enemy comes against us, we can stand firm in the knowledge that we are saved, and that we are at peace with the power to stand, even in chaos. We can also advance against the powers of hell in the boots of the Gospel–the Word of God–that says “we are more than conquerors.” By His grace, we are able to stand firm or stand ready to go into action as the Holy Spirit prompts!