I find out about new subcultures everyday. For example, there’s a Nick Cage subculture. That’s right…the guy we all love as The Family Man now writes, produces, and stars in a handful of underground movies, some of which you can see currently on Netflix. And apparently he has an underground following around these cheesy B-rate films. I recently got roped into watching one of these cinematic marvels at a buddy’s home one evening.
As we sat down to take in the horrible acting and predictable plot lines of Season of the Witch, something else caught my attention…
The timeframes for the story is set during the Crusades. If you don’t know about the Crusades, check the google machine, but what stuck out to me was the armor worn by the soldiers in the film. These days, one of the only places to see armor in action is on the news as they report the latest riot from somewhere around the world. But the old school armor donned by Nick Cage’s character (and pulled from some backroom Hollywood storage closet I’m sure) made me think of the passage from the Bible in which the Apostle Paul uses similar armor as a metaphor for our spiritual protection.
Let me explain…
The very first piece of armor one would encounter, being as it’s held out in front, is the shield. Paul encourages his readers to pick up the shield of faith in his letter to the gathered believer in Ephesus. Therefore, it is our faith that is our first line of defense against anything that might want to come against us.
What might want to come against us?
For me, and maybe for you, fear is one of the largest arrows that comes against me and is the very thing against which I must pick up my shield to keep it from getting any closer!
Fear takes different forms for all of us. Here are three big forms it takes for me:
- Fear of Inadequacy and Irrelevance
- Fear of Judgment
- Fear of Loss
Do any of these sound, or feel, familiar? When I am not intentional to pick up my shield of faith, I can easily be injured by thoughts of not being good enough, not being important enough…
of not speaking up or joining certain circles for fear of being judged…
of losing something or someone I have come to depend on.
Any of these sound familiar?
Interestingly, each of these fears can be the very thing that keeps us from taking the next step in growing deeper in our faith. It’s almost a very brilliant cycle and scheme of our enemy.
Are any of these thoughts familiar: What if I try and fail as a follower of Jesus? The really spiritual people will see me as a fraud if I try to run in those circles. What if stepping deeper into faith requires me to give up my job, relationships, lifestyle, income, etc.??
So we have all of these fears and I would label them as internal, because we create and experience them without much influence from the outside. But at the same time, the writings of Paul remind us that there are external forces of which we must also be aware.
So internal and external causes to fear??
Rather than lions, tigers, and bears, it’s liars, spirits, and fears…oh my! So we find ourselves in a situation where fear and paranoia can reign. But, if fear and paranoia become our regular experience, then we have missed the whole point!
As we look at Paul’s final greeting in this letter, he explains the purpose and hope he has for these friends to whom he writes. The purpose is encouragement and the point is peace. This is why it’s so important for us to understand that Jesus’ victory is our victory. Because fear makes no room for faith. And paranoia makes no room for peace.
One of the greatest purposes of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is to help the church realize that in our new identity in Jesus, we are no longer separate. Instead, we are one. And one of our greatest fears as humans is fear of the other…fear of the unknown. Paul wants his readers to understand that in Jesus, there is no longer an other. What (or who) was unknown has become known. As we skim the surface here, understand that unity across socio-ethnic divides deserves its own blog, or book…and there are countless out there!
So back to Paul in prison…
We cannot miss how Paul writes this letter while being in-prisoned for proclaiming the message of Jesus. Yet he does not try to hide how following the Lord and being obedient has landed him in jail, rather than living a wealthy life in a palace! In fact, I would argue that Paul is more concerned with this community than with his own circumstance.
And that is a mark of someone who lives in the true victory of Jesus — having overcome the fears and paranoia of this life, both internal and external, and living life on mission.