Over the past while, 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. Then Paul says this: “As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.”
This is one of my favourite parts of this passage. First of all, it tells us that our task is to “proclaim the gospel of peace.” That means proclaiming both with words, and actions the good news of God’s peace for us and for this world. And this doesn’t mean simply a kind of placidness or quiet, it’s not just the absence of conflict or a vague state of wellbeing. I have to believe that Paul has in mind here the Hebrew idea of shalom.
Shalom is a word that evokes wholeness, harmony, completeness—in other words, the way God meant for the world to be. Shalom is what the prophet Isaiah is talking about when he imagines a day when wolves and lambs will lie down together, and the nations of the world will stream into God’s presence for the most lavish celebration the world has ever known, when every tear will be wiped away and every hungry belly filled.
Shalom is the world completely oriented to the love, creativity and delight of God. The stuff Christians believe we’re caught up with, in the wake of the life, death, resurrection and reign of Jesus. As followers of Jesus, who is the peace of God for us, the Prince of Peace, we get to live here and now as it will be when God gets the world God wants.
So that’s cool. That’s a good calling. But what I like most about this is that Paul tells us to put on whatever will make us ready to be people of shalom. I think this is great. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Sometimes the terrain will be rocky and sometimes it’ll be smooth. Sometimes we’ll need running shoes and sometimes work boots and sometimes we’ll need our peace proclaiming flip flops.
I think this testifies to the fact that God takes particularity seriously. You’ll need different metaphorical footwear to be a person of peace in an office than in a classroom, or in your home, or your rec sports league, or the grocery store. And to truly be a person of peace, caught up in God’s peace, we have to take the people in front of us seriously, the places we inhabit seriously, and not reduce them to generalizations all to be dealt with the same way.
We get to be creative. Put on whatever will make you ready. Remember, Paul says that what we’re up against are the wiles of the devil. But evil, is not creative. God is creative. And we’re made in God’s image. And we learn to live that out creatively.
Which is a good reminder that peace-making, peace-proclaiming isn’t just sitting around with our feet up. It’s active. We’ve got our shoes on! As Shane Claiborne puts it, peace-making is actively resisting the forces of death, without imitating them.
What peace-proclaiming footwear do you need today?
Whatever you need, put it on. It's a gift of God.
So may it be so.