“Having shod your feet with a preparation of the gospel of peace.” (Eph. 6: ‘5).
When a soldier has put his shoes on, and has laced them tight, he is ready to go. Without shoes it is difficult to walk any great distance; especially is this so for a soldier.
The gospel of peace is shoes for the Christian, and the laces with which to fasten them to his feet. It enables him to go into battle in the right spirit. For us who are Christians there is much to be learned from this verse. If we can discover its great teachings and make them our own, we shall have learned a great deal concerning the method of fighting the good fight.
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The first teaching is this that if we are to fight our battles successfully, we must first have found peace with God in a good conscience. The truth concerning the peace which Jesus acquired for us must have reached into our hearts; nothing must be permitted to disturb our communion with God. Not until this state has been reached can the peace of God guard our heart and mind.
The Spirit of the gospel makes us steady and quiet; in the midst of the battle we can be messengers of peace. It is this which characterizes a Christian and sets him off from other people: He fights as a man of peace, and conquers evil with good.
Christians never have a right to fight for the sake of a battle. Such warfare ill befits the Kingdom of God. Satan often tempts the Christians to use the sword against each other rather than against a common foe. It is a wise Christian who knows when to fight and when to desist; not all Christians do. If we fight because we love to fight, we can be certain that we are not fighting for the gospel or in the spirit of the gospel. We are then striving to promote our own opinions rather than the Kingdom of God. The result of such a battle is that the Christians are divided just when they should be united.
On this point it is very easy to be unjust toward many an upright warrior in God’s army. He who fires the first shot is not always the one who is guilty of disturbing the peace. A Christian may be led by the Spirit of God to do that which is right according to the Word of God. But there are other Christians who have grown careless and selfish; these take offense at the action of the other, and blame him for disturbing the peace. However, it is the latter rather than the former who must bear the blame.
In such instances a Christian must fight; the battle is for the purpose of calling forth life where death holds sway. The peace of death rules in many communities today, as indeed it has done in former years. But there have always been those who have tried to disturb this peace. Though they have been the innocent ones, they have usually been blamed for starting trouble.
We must remember, though, that it is wrong to go into the fray with the cudgel of the law. It is possible to be on the side of truth and right, and still to carry on in a cold and critical spirit. When parents punish their children in a fit of temper rather than in kindness, or when preachers proclaim the Word without genuine love, their feet are not shod with the gospel of peace. Even when one has to exercise authority there should be an attitude of sympathetic love in the heart. If instead one lets fall heavy blows from the hammer of the law while there is hatred in the heart, godliness is not promoted.
When the gospel gets power over a human heart it makes the Christian keen in discerning the truth as well as intensely in love with the truth. It makes him both soft and pliable, yet tough without being brittle. It is said of the blacksmiths of old that when they wanted to test a sword which they had made they would bend it around a barrel until point and hilt touched. If it then flew back into shape and became perfectly straight, it was a good sword. The gospel gives the Christian a temper not unlike that of such a sword.
It is the Master alone who can teach us the delicate Christian art of having the mind of Christ. His whole life was sustained by the peace of the gospel. In the midst of the most bitter struggle, when His soul was sorrowful unto death, He received the Judas-kiss from the betrayer. Jesus turned to him with this kind question, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” After Peter had thrice denied his Lord, Jesus looked at him with a gaze that was full of love and compassion. Wherever He went He was shod with a preparation of the gospel of peace. He did not threaten His persecutors, nor did He return evil for evil. Therefore every one who came face to face with His quiet and victorious person would either have to bend or break.
Peter yielded before Him, but Judas broke under him.
If we would examine the best among His followers, we shall find this Christlike attitude to be a characteristic of those who have had the greatest spiritual power. Paul fought, not only for the gospel, but also in the gospel. Before magistrates and under persecution, in prison and among false brethren, he always clung to the gospel. His whole conduct was guided by it. When he was in bonds he wept not because he was in bonds but because most people were enemies of the Cross of Christ. His tears were tears of love from one who loved the truth. Toward the end of his life his heart was filled with a song of victory and peace; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but also to those who love his appearing.” (II Tim. 4:7-8).
In Norway we have also had a man who exemplified this side of true Christianity. One of the reasons why he did so much good for his country and made a place for himself in the hearts of his countrymen was that his feet were shod with the gospel of peace.
This man was Hans Nielsen Hauge.
When policeman or pastor scolded angrily, he defended himself quietly and truthfully. He was never a coward. He always spoke the truth, and never harbored hatred in his heart. When he was treated kindly he thanked his benefactors and prayed for God’s blessings upon them; if he were beaten and brought to prison, he did not complain. His biographer, J. B. Bull, relates this incident from one of Hauge’s travels:
Hauge was on the way from Oslo to his home at Tune. In the evening he went to a farmstead and secured lodging for the night. Later in the evening the local school teacher also came; he had heard rumors of Hauge’s presence. In a fit of temper he called Hauge an ignoramus and a heretic. Hauge said little. After a while he said that the Bible, with which the teacher undoubtedly was very familiar, teaches that we ought not to treat one another thus.
The teacher sprang to his feet and strode toward Hauge. “I am going to show you how heretics ought to be treated,” he said, directing a powerful blow right at Hauge’s ear. The latter lost his temper; he arose, broadshouldered and strong. A strange fire flashed in his blue eyes. But he regained his self-control and said quietly, “You ought not to do thus.” He glanced at the lady of the house; the poor woman was both embarrassed and frightened. The teacher clenched his fist before Hauge’s face; he went to the door and opened it. “Get out at once,” he screamed; “You have no business here.”
Hauge looked first at the housewife, and then at the teacher. “Are you the master of the house?” he asked. “Yes,” replied the teacher, “I am at least so much a master of the house that I command you to leave, and that immediately; otherwise I shall give you some more of the same treatment as a moment ago.” He clenched his fists once more.
“I have fists also,” said Hauge, “but I do not use them to strike my brothers.”
“Out,” screamed the teacher, pointing to the open door. A blast of cold air blew into the room.
Hauge turned to him and said quietly, “That I shall; but first I must pay for my lodging.” He took his purse and gave the housewife the amount they had agreed upon. She accepted it hesitatingly.
Hauge buttoned his coat slowly, turned to the teacher and said in a clear voice, “It is good to be well dressed when it is cold outside; likewise, it is good to be clothed in the love of Christ so that we can pray for those who strike us. God’s peace, and farewell.”
He turned and left the house.
Something strange happened. The teacher, who until then had been watching the peaceful man with increasing astonishment, began to weep violently. “God help me,” he cried as he dashed out after Hauge. He called into the darkness.
“Yes,” replied Hauge.
“Can you possibly forgive me?” His voice failed him.
“Yes,” came the reply. “God forgives us all.” He continued walking down the road.
“No, please do not leave us.”
“Yes, it must be so.”
The teacher remained standing and peering into the darkness. “Where are you going?” he cried.
“Where the Lord leads,” came the reply.
“Farewell, then, and God speed.”
“Thanks, and to you likewise.”
Nothing further was heard. Hauge disappeared into the darkness. He was shod with a preparation of the gospel of peace.
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On this point many of us are small men today. We so often lack that divine peace which enables one to step quietly over the many obstacles that are placed in the way. We are so easily wounded; we
strike back. At least we let it be known that we are martyrs if we do not return blow for blow. Thus we lose the battle.
Dear Christian compatriot! Fasten your shoes with the laces of peace. Do not go into the battle before the power of the gospel has bound your self-willed feet. Then the victory shall be yours.
Our age needs warriors of this type.
Uphold me in the doubtful race, Nor suffer me again to stray; Strengthen my feet, with steady pace Still to press forward in Thy way; That all my pow’rs, with all their might, In Thy sole glory may unite.
He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city.