The Feet That Bring Good News
It’s not about the armor.
I’ve always squirmed a bit at the image Paul uses in Ephesians 6 to talk about the being ready to face opposition. Most likely, Paul is distinguishing the preparation of the Christians from the preparation of the occupying forces of Rome. Truth, justice, faith, salvation and the word of God are the equipment that we need in order to stand firm, as opposed to weapons, shields and protective clothing. Instead, my mind always goes to that amazing battlefield scene when the boy David is being dressed to face Goliath and is totally dwarfed by Saul’s battle gear, like a child playing dress-up.
In a way, of course, that’s true for us as well as we try to “put on” the sort of truth, justice and virtues to which God calls us. These values and concepts seem huge and overwhelming in the context of our competitive, individualistic, eye-for-an-eye world.
That’s why I like the part about shoes. In verse 15, we’re instructed to put shoes on our feet so that we are ready to spread the good news of peace (Common English Bible). This is the one piece of equipment that is not listed with a spiritual counterpart. This is concrete, understandable preparation. We know that God is at work in the world, that there will be conflict, but that peace is the vision for the new creation.
Lion, lamb, mourners, sorrowful — will all be transformed.
In some mind-blowing way, we are to live the values of the new creation now, even in situations of conflict. If Paul is directing the believers to be a force that operates counter to the forces of Rome, there will be significant conflict — including imprisonment, stoning and the rest of it. But we are to speak peace; to tell the good news of peace. We should note that there is no indication that this is a purely spiritual idea of peace, nor that it is purely individual. The letter that is now Ephesians was written to the community, read to the community and preserved by the community. We hear the echo of the prophets calling for — or announcing the end of — peace in Zion.
It’s no wonder then that United Methodist Women continue a tradition of work for peace. Women as peacemakers is the subject of a fairly recent United Nations resolution, but it has long been part of the work of faith-filled women. Since the 1950s when we participated in practical steps toward developing the Church Center for the United Nations through to this year when we brought together United Methodist women from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Mozambique and Zimbabwe to talk about what might prepare the way for peace in the Great Lakes region, we have been investing in peacemaking. It is good news for the whole world that God desires peace, and that peace will be established as part of the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is amazing that we get to be part of spreading the word and taking practical steps to make peace possible.
It’s time to get your shoes on!
Harriett Jane Olson
United Methodist Women