Spiritual Warfare: Armor of God - Belt of Truth — John 18:37-38
This fictional exchange brings to mind a truly crucial court scene. In that room, two men are facing off alone. In this exchange the first gentleman, Pilate, questions Jesus, wondering if he can convict Jesus for treason against Caesar:
Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
Last week we began a series on Spiritual Warfare and the Armor of God. We came to acknowledge that our battle is not against those that we would normally consider our enemies. Our battle is not against those on the left or the right; our battle is not against those of other nationalities are political ideologies; our battle is not against those that aren’t like us or don’t believe like us or don’t live like us. Our battle is not against those of blood and flesh. We are not in a battle against those whom God knit together in their mother’s womb; we are not in a battle against those that God placed his very breath within to give life; our battle is not against any one for whom Christ died. Our battle, our true battle, is against the forces of darkness, against satan and his demonic army that would try to steal us away from the path God would have us walk. We are not fighting a battle simply on this plane, we are engaged in Spiritual Warfare and we are called to put on the Armor of God.
So what does it look like to put on the Armor of God? What does it mean to: fasten the belt of truth around your waist; to put on the breastplate of righteousness; to put on our feet whatever will make us ready to proclaim the gospel of peace; to take the shield of faith; to take the helmet of salvation; to take the sword of the Spirit? If we are supposed to do it, we need to find out, so over the next month-and-a-half we will examine each one of these pieces of equipment that God provides individually.
Paul begins by telling us to fasten the belt of truth about our waist.
The first thing we’ve got to understand is that this was not a belt was not a fashion accessory or meant to hold up our suit of armor pants. This belt was meant to protect the abdominal cavity. It was meant to protect those organs such as our stomach, our liver, our pancreas, and all those other organs that don’t have the ribs or any other bone structure to protect them. It would cover the area that would be located just below the breast plate. The belt on a suit of armor is important in order to keep from being gutted on the battlefield.
So we are to put on the belt of Truth. However, at times, this belt leaves me standing there like Pilate asking, “what is truth” and how do we fasten about ourselves this Belt of Truth. So many folks think differently and with that comes different understandings of just what truth is. The trouble arises out of the fact that what one person defines as truth does not always line up with what someone else understands to be truth.
When I was growing up I was under the impression that if you wanted someone’s opinion about current events, you read or listened to the editorials. If you wanted to the truth, the facts, about a situation, you read or watched the news. Nowadays, you can’t even depend on the news to be truthful. And with the trend of the left and the right calling almost every story “fake news,” we’re wondering just where do we find the absolute truth.
The internet doesn’t help matters at all because there are many folks who believe whatever they read on the internet must be true…because they read it. The scoop up a story and forward it along and pretty soon it is trending, and half the world is believing it, never paying attention to the origin of the story. I’ve been forwarded several stories that had folks all up in arms, only to trace the story back to a website the specializes in satires…I’ve also received a number of warnings about something that the government, or Facebook, or some other entity was about to do, not just once or twice, but I’ve received that same warning at almost annually over the last 20 years…about an event that supposedly happened just within the past month or the previous day.
Truth suddenly seems to be subjective—changing from person to person, place to place, situation to situation. That seemed to be amplified as I asked the question over the last week of folks within our community that are on Facebook, and I want to thank all of those who were able to take the time to answer. However, I had five responses with five different answers. Some of the answers seemed to leave truth to be just as elusive to us as it was for Pilate: answers revolved around what we believe, what we have experienced or seen, or even accurate answers and accounts.
But what if what I believe to be true and what you believe to be true are different…what determines what is actually true? What if my experiences are different that your experiences? What if my account of an incident differs from your account? All of that can leave us confused and wondering what is true and what did Paul mean when he said to fasten about yourself the belt of Truth. How can something that is so fluid and changing and inconsistent that you can’t be certain what it is, protect us? However, other answers I received draw us closer to the answer: the Bible and God. Yet even here, people tend to interpret the Bible differently and God’s people even struggled with understanding God…so though we draw closer with these answers, we are still left unsure. That is, until we remember that we were offered the perfect and pure image of the invisible God, a means of truthfully discerning just who God is and how God is to be understood. That truthful image is Jesus…and Scripture reminds us that earlier than Jesus’ encounter with Pilate, Jesus had told His followers, “I am the Way the Truth, and the Life.” So, to those who heard of or read this exchange between Jesus and Pilate in that courtroom, the answer to Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” would have readily been answered, “Jesus is Truth!”
What does it mean, then, to wrap this kind of Truth about ourselves? What does it mean to wrap Jesus around us? Why does Paul suggest that we put on the belt of truth before we do anything else? It is because, my brothers and sisters, that before we enter into the Spiritual Warfare fully ready for battle, we must make sure that we have surrounded ourselves with Jesus. We must make sure that we have wrapped ourselves, completely surrounded and enveloped and bathed ourselves in Christ. What does this mean? Wrapping ourselves with Jesus, with the truth that is Jesus, means that what we do, how we act, and what our conversations sound like, and even every thought we have, will reflect that Jesus is the true center of our lives. It means that our interactions with others will reflect that Jesus is first and foremost in our lives. It means how we respond when we see those in need will reflect the care and compassion and heart of Jesus, rather than the indifference or judgment that reflects the world’s response. It means that when we see that there is pain that we will offer grace and love. It means that where there is sin that we will offer forgiveness and freedom (not condemnation). And it means that when there is a needed response that we are willing to sacrifice to meet that need. It means that when we enter into this battle and we find ourselves in situations where we don’t know what to do and we don’t know what is the true way to act, that we simply look to Jesus and respond as Jesus would. It means that if we’re trying to discern where the word of God, the Eternal Word of God, the scriptures that are opened before us, if we’re trying to discern where they are directing us, we look to the Word made flesh, Jesus. When we don’t, it gives the devil a foothold in our lives and in our homes, and thereby gives him a chance to gut us. For when we base our lives on the false messages that the world sends to us—calls to hate others, calls to think of ourselves first, calls compromise our faith for the sake of getting ahead, calls to cheat or steal or surrender to addictions, we find our vital organs, our very lives, exposed, and easily taken down. My Brothers and Sisters, as we enter this battle may make ready for battle first putting on the belt of Truth, surrounding ourselves with Jesus, and in doing so, we find ourselves protected and ready for battle. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.