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Clergy View: Stand firm

"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm." — Ephesians 6:13

This week, in my devotions, I've been wrestling with a text from Ephesians. It comes from a book in which the writer is encouraging the community of believers to withstand the persecution of the larger society. Here, truth is likened to a belt, righteousness to a breastplate, shoes to whatever enables the proclamation of the gospel of peace, salvation to a helmet, and the word of God to a sword. All of the physical equipment mentioned would have been standard issue to soldiers of the day. And all of spiritual equipment mentioned is necessary for Christians to stand firm.

While the image may be appealing because, at times, it feels like life is a battle. One of the things I fear about this passage is the danger for people to misuse the biblical command to "stand firm" and interpret it to mean "stand stubborn."

Someone who "stands stubborn" will not listen to ideas that differ from his or her own ideas. Such a person will reject a differing point of view out of hand. And such a person will refuse to change one's position regardless of any new insights or situation in which they find themselves. Certainty can then become a snare that entraps, rather than freeing one for the pursuit of the proclamation of the Gospel of Peace we're all called to proclaim.

How are we to distinguish the difference between one who "stands firm" and one who "stands stubborn?" When confronted with inconvenient truth, those who stand stubborn become fearful; they seek to hide their own inner insecurities and before long, they lose the spirit of God's love, and instead they take up a siege mentality. This is not what the biblical writer has in mind.

Standing firm, quite the opposite of stubbornness, is dedicated to getting at truth—God's truth—which is revealed to us in Scripture, but is always understood to be a truth that surpasses our complete understanding. Standing firm does involve being willing to debate, but also being willing to listen. It involves an openness to consider alternatives. It is intent not on winning the battle, but rather on reaching a beneficial goal—a holy outcome—all the while doing so in a way that doesn't sacrifice basic principles but acts out of humility and a willingness to be unpopular, if necessary.

Our times certainly call us to lay claim to this ancient truth found in Scripture. People of Brainerd and beyond-- be Warriors of a different nature. Stand firm.