Cambridge terms run for 8 weeks, Thursday-Wednesday, and people here often keep track of where they are in term by marking the fact that we are ‘near the end of Week 1’ etc. There is also the notoriety of the ‘Week 5 blues’ – supposedly because most people are worn out by that point in the term, but find themselves only at the half-way point.
Last term, to make the way we relate to the different weeks a little more positive, Siân and I named the weeks by different fruits of the spirit. This term, the weeks are named after ‘the armour of God’, which can be found in Ephesians 6.
Siân – Right with God
To be called righteous is to be justified, made right before the God of justice. Wearing the breastplate of righteousness is living every day knowing that I was redeemed, bought at a price, by a God to whom I am precious. I am a sinner, yet Jesus came to swap my sin for his righteousness. He was made sinful that I might be made right.
There are days when the perfect agony of this blows me away. When I am so aware of my sin that I can hardly bear to be called redeemed, because it entails knowing that Jesus suffered and paid the ultimate cost for me. On these days, I must put on the breastplate of righteousness anyway. To humbly acknowledge that my insufficiency and God’s perfection go hand in hand, and to wear them both where everyone can see.
There are days when I find it frustrating that I don’t get to change my status as a sinner right now. That underneath my breastplate of righteousness, I am still a broken person, who cannot believe that there is nothing she can do to earn something – anything – to put me in God’s favour. On these days, I must put on the breastplate of righteousness anyway. To repeatedly reject a culture of works, the voice that says that the things I do, no matter how small, are more important to God than the faith from which I do them. I read Romans 3:23-24:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
And I remember that God’s gift of grace to us is the only way, the perfect plan A for his people.
There are days when I am vulnerable, and I scrabble around, trying to find where the armour has gone that might protect my heart from all the words and actions and people that might hurt it. And God gently reaches out his hand, and tells me no. The breastplate of righteousness is not designed to keep people out, but to equip me as part of the fight for the gospel. And when I am tempted to use it as a place to retreat to, rather than as equipment to go out, then I need to work out how to separate God’s concern from my concern. Mine might be to not get hurt – but God’s is to make himself known. He sends us from a place of vulnerability on purpose, so that it is through his strength, and not ours, that his glorious kingdom will come. I would like to sit comfortably in the security of my redemption; God would like me to be willing to go to uncomfortable places in order that others might also know his grace.
Rachel – Right with Others
The New Testament Greek word that we translate as righteousness in ‘the breastplate of righteousness’ (dikaiosunēs) can also be translated justice (it’s the same word as also found in the beatitudes).
Our righteousness is based upon our redemption. And our own redemption is part of a much broader redemption of all things. God’s kingdom is built on the restoration of relationships as a whole: not just with us, but in our relationships with others and our relationships with the rest of creation.
Our righteousness then, is not something to hold within ourselves, solely for us. It begins in our own redemption as renewed and restored children of God, but then it steps out – in radical and compassionate love. To challenge injustice with the justice of God.
As Siân says, it is not place to retreat to, but as equipment to go out in.
We put on the breastplate of righteousness.
Reflect – Some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you humbled by the fact that we are made right with God?
- How do you think of righteousness? Is righteousness a place of retreat, or equipment to go out in?
- In what ways are you using your life to pursue justice currently? How can you extend this?
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Amen, Rachel. Excellent and comprehensive post on this important topic.