Armor of inclusivity (November 27, 2022)

A uniform lesson for November 27, 2022.

Uniform lesson for November 27, 2022
Scripture passage and lesson focus: Ephesians 6:10-1

One thing’s for sure. Artwork must be protected. If you are the steward of a precious piece of art, you need good glass, a sturdy frame, and a mat that won’t bleed or fade. You shouldn’t hang this art in strong sunlight, or allow it to endure high humidity. The more rare and exquisite this art is, the more zealous you must be. Someone may try to steal it. Someone else may attempt to deface it. A third party might decide to destroy it, out of jealousy for the attention and admiration it attracts. Precious art must be protected, not just for its own sake, but for the sake of the world. What about God’s artwork called church?

The armor of God

So, the first thing we must emphasize is that the armor in our passage is not for the purpose of pursuit, power, or prestige, but for protection. This armor is purely defensive rather than offensive in nature. As we have read, God has chosen the church, in Christ; and lavished God’s love and grace upon us, in and through Christ. God has made us into “God’s artwork” for “the praise of God’s glory,” (Ephesians 1:14) and for good works “which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:10). For centuries upon centuries, and age after age, God has been fashioning this piece of living art to show forth God’s love to all the cosmos. God then declares God’s intent to protect God’s handiwork for centuries and ages to come. How? By offering us various pieces of armor — not to attack others, but to protect God’s work in us, so that others might see and rejoice.

As the church in North America continues to decline in numbers and in power and in prestige, there are many who want to go on the offensive. This closing passage from Ephesians would seem to be a perfect passage with which to mount such an attack. But this is a belt of “truth” and a breastplate of “righteousness” (verse 14). These are shoes of “peace” and shields of “faith” (verses 15-16). This is a helmet of “salvation” and a sword of the Spirit “which is the word of God (verse 17).” The closest this armor gets to attacking is talking, sharing the word of God with others, not out of vengeance or viciousness, but love. Over and over again, the call in this passage is a call not to “march,” but to “stand”: “stand” (verse 11); “withstand” (verse 13); “stand firm” (verse 13). Like glass that protects a painting from ultraviolet rays; like a frame that keeps a painting from stretching or sagging; like a mat that keeps a painting flat and secure down through the centuries and the ages, this armor is meant to protect something precious that God has created — the church of Jesus Christ, God’s artwork for the sake of the world.

Put it on

Having said that, there is something we who have been chosen are yet called to do. What’s that? Put this armor on, this “whole armor” on (verse 10). Why? Because such precious artwork will be under attack. Systems and structures that would prefer the world’s attention and admiration will try to destroy it. “Artists” with other purposes and allegiances will attempt to outdo it. As countless people have tried to deface and destroy and steal pieces of precious art in our world (read the history of the Mona Lisa!), so the powers and principalities (which Paul describes as “the devil” and “the evil one” and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” in verses 11, 16, and 12) will mount attacks on the church. Sometimes this will take place in obvious ways – through broadsides against religion in general, or the Christian faith in particular. More often these attacks will be “wily” (verse 11) – pointing out the flaws and foibles of organized and institutional religion, which cannot be denied. Nevertheless, Paul here calls the church to “stand firm,” not so much for its own sake, but for the sake of the world, for whom God has created and sustained and inspired this precious piece of art.


When all is said and done, the best way to preserve, protect, and even enhance God’s artwork is through prayer. Why? Because prayer, at its heart, keeps us focused on the person and the power behind this “exceptional choice” and this remarkable “handiwork.” As we said before, when it comes to what has been created, it’s God, God, God. When we shift our focus toward who’s been chosen, it’s us, us, us. Not to the exclusion of others, but for the inclusion of all — to God’s glory alone.

For discussion

How would you “protect” the church today?

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