by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
Last month, as I stood in line to vote, I noticed a young man a couple of places ahead of me. He was wearing a white shirt, red and white striped suspenders, a stars and stripes bow tie, stars and stripes tennis shoes, stars and stripes socks and, somewhat out of place, black pants. I remarked that he would have been right at home in a musical, and if he had begun singing and dancing I wouldn’t have been completely surprised. I don't know who he voted for but there was no doubt that day what he was there to do: vote. He made no bones about being a proud American and a committed voter.
The Bible talks about clothing in various places (2 Chr. 6:41; Isa. 52:1a, 61:10; Psa. 132:9, 16; Gal. 3:27; Rev. 3:5, 18). Paul wrote about “the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:10-18). He lists “the belt of truth, . . . the breastplate of righteousness, . . . as shoes for your feet, . . . the readiness given by the gospel of peace. . . . the shield of faith, . . . the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit”. Paul wrote that these were necessary resources in order to prevail “in the evil day” (vs. 13b ESV). Paul, like other Christians in his time, expected to be persecuted and attacked at any moment. When Paul wrote these words, he was a prisoner for his faith (vs. 20). He and his fellow Christians were adamant about proclaiming the gospel, regardless of personal cost. We have the luxury today that most of us will never be challenged for our faith. But is that a reflection of the times and society in which we live or perhaps simply because we have little or no faith to challenge?
The majority of Earth’s people can’t vote, for anyone or anything, in any election, because they don’t have that right. We do, yet 40% of eligible voters in the US don’t bother to vote. I wonder how many Christians don’t bother to vote in spiritual matters. Every decision we make is a vote, either for God or for something else. Paul looked forward to the time “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality,” (1 Cor. 15:54a ESV). Yet most of us barely look forward to next week. We rarely have a perspective that embraces immortality or looks to the coming of Christ’s kingdom. I know I don’t.
Right now, most of us are doing well to look beyond the current holiday season. The busyness, the shopping, the meals, all fill our thoughts and consume our time and energy. Our vote is for anything but the coming messiah. Instead, it is for the earthly things of today and perhaps tomorrow. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “. . . we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18 ESV). We’re more concerned with filling earthly wants than heavenly needs, and it shows in our approach to the season of Advent.
As we enter Advent on our way to Christmas, we know that some folks will always receive clothing: Shirts, blouses, sweaters, socks, ties, and scarves. Some will be worn once or twice and then meet the same fate. Still others will become favorites, worn proudly at every opportunity. How often will we wear the garments of God? Who will know what we are and how we stand? What we wear is a choice. With each choice we make, we either choose for God or we don’t (Josh. 24:15). God has already chosen us (James 2:5), not because we’re special or because we deserve it (1 Cor. 1:26-30) but because of God’s immense love. Paul told the Ephesians to wear truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Holy Spirit. These qualities seem like appropriate attire for believers then and today. The young man at my polling place made no secret of his intentions and neither should we. Our greatest gift is the gift of salvation (Rom. 6:23). Let’s wear the gifts of God proudly wherever we go.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Eph. 6:13-18a ESV.)
Copyright © 2016 by David Phelps