Lately, we’ve been thinking about Paul’s image of the Whole Armour of God, from Ephesians 6: 10-18—the tools we have at our disposal to stand against the spiritual realities working against God’s good will and purposes for our lives, and for the world.
So far, we’ve considered the Belt of Truth, and the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Shoes of Peace, and the Shield of Faith. Today we’re putting on the Helmet of Salvation, the next piece of our spiritual armour.
Paul says, “Take the helmet of salvation.” Sometimes we can read too much into these things, but I’m interested in the active reception of salvation. We “take” the helmet, as if it’s being held out, offered by another. We don’t snatch and grab at it. But neither is it thrown at us; we don’t catch it unexpectedly; it’s not foisted on us unwillingly. We take the helmet of salvation.
Different Christian traditions think differently about what salvation means, what it means to be “saved.” For some, we’re saved from punishment after death; for others we’re saved for something in this life. For some, it happens at the moment of accepting Jesus as our personal Lord and Saviour. For others, salvation is an ongoing process. St. Paul says elsewhere that the cross of Christ is power for those who are being saved. Some believe it’s a once and forever thing; others insist that it’s not a guarantee, but something we constantly work and strive for in faithfulness.
It seems to me that both biblically, and in my experience, the truth is somewhere in the middle. If someone asks “When were you saved?” It is a perfectly legitimate answer to say “Somewhere around 33 AD, on a hill called Golgatha.” Orthodox Christian belief says that when Jesus was crucified, he took on the sins of the world and they were destroyed with him. And when he rose from the dead, even death was destroyed, once and for all. From that first Easter morning, there is nothing that can separate us from God (which is what sin is), which means that we are rescued, saved from anything that would ultimately destroy us.
However, there is an element of “becoming”, of “being saved”, that I suspect is familiar to all who strive to follow Jesus, and live into the hope of his resurrection and reign. We put on the helmet of salvation, showing that we’re ready for action, ready to face down what is evil.
So perhaps this image of a helmet being handed to us is especially apt. We have this thing that is unquestionably true, solid, there. But it doesn’t do us much good if we don’t take it, and put it on. In the company of Jesus, there is no question that we are reconciled to God; nothing will separate us from God’s love. But that’s not just a passive reality. It makes a claim on us. From the moment we understand our forgiveness, our salvation which is by grace alone, we learn to live into that. We are ready to stand against the death dealing ways of evil in the world, in the way of love.
May it be so.