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The Armor of God. The Belt of Truth

THE ARMOR OF GOD. THE BELT OF TRUTH

By Ted Schroder

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist."(NIV) "Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth..."(RSV) (Ephesians 6:14)

The belt held together the loose tunic of the soldier. It gave him freedom and security to go into action "Girded" is the same word as translated "buckled". . Jesus said, "Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning..." (Luke 12:35) Jesus is saying, "Be ready for action. Be prepared for any eventuality that may come in life."

A belt protects us from injuring ourselves. It gives us the support we need when we are bending over, or lifting heavy objects. It is worn by athletes in training, when they are lifting weights. A seat belt holds us within the zone of safety provided by the frame of our automobile. It prevents us from being thrown out of the vehicle and injured when we are involved in a collision or other kinds of accidents. Recently a woman driving on the Matthews Bridge in Jacksonville was not wearing a seat belt when she was involved in an accident. As a result she was thrown over the side of the bridge to her death.

It was July 16, 1951 and I was 10 years old. That morning I woke to find my mother packing her suitcase. Normally a very self-possessed woman, that morning she was very emotionally distressed. She had reason to be. She had just received news that my father had been involved in an accident. With three of his best friends, he had driven to Christchurch, five hours away, to play in a golf tournament. Dad had just turned 40, the others were all in their thirties.

One of them was our family attorney, Amos James, whose office was directly opposite the public library, and who let me read his National Geographic magazines when I went to return my books. After spending some time at the nineteenth hole, they returned in my father's car to the hotel. I was told by another friend that they were probably laughing at the jokes Ozzie Howat (34) was known to crack as they approached an unguarded railroad crossing. The driver was not paying attention and they were hit by a locomotive. My father's three closest friends were killed. He was found on the rear seat with the others on top of him. Despite it being his car, he had not been driving. The only survivor, he was to remain in hospital for many weeks recovering from his injuries. I will never forget the funeral of those three young men. The whole town turned out. There were truckloads of floral wreaths. It was an evil day. There were no seat belts. If they had been buckled up there is a possibility that my father's three friends would have survived.

My contention is that we all need to be buckled up by the belt of truth if we are to survive when the locomotive of life comes barreling down on us and we are faced with the evil day of crisis.

But what is this belt of truth? There are many who would say today that there is no truth, that we are surrounded by propaganda, with perception which distorts the truth, with facts which are seen from the viewers' perspective. Truth is increasingly seen as a dirty word, an attempt to manipulate and oppress others. There do not seem to be firm and reliable landmarks, no points that hold sure and unchanged in a sea of relativity. One person's view seems as good as any other, leaving the door open for people to believe in anything or nothing. But once truth is abandoned, the distinction between truth and falsity disappears. If we are tolerant of what anyone claims as truth we deny the possibility of contradiction. We wind up by saying that "all religions are the same," when they claim to be very different. (cf. What is Truth? Peter Vardy)

Tolerance used to mean the respecting of real, hard differences. It has come to mean rejecting any claims to universal truth, and a belief in moral relativism - "you let me believe and behave what I think is true for me and I will not judge your beliefs and behavior." In other words tolerance has become a religious and moral libertarianism. We are all for openness, but when it is opposed to thinking that there is a right from wrong, it is hostile to being committed to any truth. (cf. Allen Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind) The new dogmatism of the day teaches that a believer in compelling truth and who has convictions is dangerous and deluded. As a result life becomes a sea of meaninglessness where anything is morally permitted; where anyone's truth (opinion, belief) is as good as anyone else's, and there is no final word about who we are and what we are meant to become.

All truth claims, including the denial that there is such a thing as truth, can be denied. There are no arguments that can prove one truth claim over another beyond any shadow of a doubt. All truth requires faith, the personal appropriation of the truth that is asserted. Each one of us has to buckle his own belt with the action of faith. Each of us has to commit ourselves to the truth of the claim that cannot be decisively proven, but to which we are willing to stake our lives on. We do it every day when we drive a car over a bridge, get on a plane or an elevator, write a check, deposit our money in a bank, buy something on the internet, sign a contract, take medication, undergo surgery, or marry someone.

Each of us lives by the truth to which we have committed ourselves. Everyone is buckled up to one truth claim or another. The media bombards us with truth claims about the products and ideas it advertises. The entertainment industry promotes its own truth claims through stimulating excitement which usually comes through demeaning marriage in favor of extramarital sex, and portraying religion in critical ways. Family, tradition, church is seen to be repressive and individual amorality is championed. The central moral truth claim of Hollywood is to believe in yourself rather than anything outside of yourself. It is a belt of lies that leads to destructive lifestyles. We need a criterion of truth that will help us distinguish between truth and deceptive illusion.

If we believe that all facts are subject to interpretation - which they are –how can we arrive at the truth that will guide us and be the rock on which we can build our lives? What is the belt of truth that gives us security and support in the evil day?

We have to make a decision about the reality of God, about the existence of the spiritual, eternal world, and about the truth claims of the prophets, apostles, and, above all, Jesus.

Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31,32) The belt of truth for the Christian believer is the teaching of Jesus. The Christian has committed himself to Jesus, and wants to live out the implications of that commitment in his life. We believe that the more the presence of Jesus lives in us, the more we will know true freedom. The more we experience the truth and wisdom of his teaching, the more we will be set free from bondage to sin to live life in all its fullness. When we are set free from self-centeredness, from self-absorption, the more we can discover the freedom of serving Christ and his kingdom of love and justice, and making a difference in the world.

Instead of the truth of Jesus being seen to be oppressive and limiting, it is seen to be liberating and fulfilling. Many people will not marry because they don't want to be tied down, or committed, or have their options closed. They want their love to be "liquid" rather than solid as Zygmunt Bauman has described western lifestyles (cf. Liquid Love). As a result they are enslaved by their self-centeredness and never discover the joy of caring more for another than themselves. Many people do not want to commit themselves to Jesus as the truth, because it would close out other options. As a result they are left without a belt to hold them steady and protect them in their lives.##~1~##To put on the belt of truth is to support yourself with a belief in, and a knowledge of, the truth as it is in Jesus. It is to be mastered by that truth. It is to be held together by that truth. It binds you and holds you together. It puts you on your feet and gives you the security and support you need to stand in the evil day.

The truth of Christ is the first piece of God's armor we put on. Without it we are completely lost. A person needs a knowledge of who he is and what he is for to have meaning and purpose in his life. So we need a settled conviction with regard to the truth. We need the security of a certain faith. Unless we believe in the truth of the cause for which we are fighting, we will not fight very well, if at all. Morale is affected by the degree to which we believe in the truth of the cause. Conviction of the truth can affect whether a battle is won or lost.

The battle of life, is a spiritual war between the truth of Christ, and the lies of the forces of evil. The truth liberates, lies enslave. We are engaged in a war in which lives are at risk. If people follow the lies that masquerade as truth they will be destroyed. Those lies promise happiness and freedom from pain, but instead they produce despair and terrible suffering. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12) One of Satan's most effective lies is that people are at their most free when in pursuit of "free thought", "free expression" and "free love".

In his book "The People of the Lie", Scott Peck gives case after case of people who have bought into the lies of the devil. These are people who attack others instead of facing their own failures. They construct layer upon layer of self-deception in order to avoid the pain of self-examination. They often succeed in deceiving others, and so are People of the Lie.

When the day of evil comes in our lives we want to be sure and certain of what we believe. It is the truth that we have belted around our waists in better days that will hold us together and give us the support we need to get through the bad days. When we know the truth, and are sure and certain of what we believe, we experience the assurance of conviction. Confidence replaces anxiety, the security of faith drives out fear. This is what we see in Jesus. Before Pilate he says, "for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." Pilate asked, "What is truth?" (John 19:37,38)

Jesus gave no reply to Pontius Pilate. Jesus claimed, not that he knew the truth, but that he was the truth. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.." (John 14:6) Truth is not just a claim but a person who embodied those claims. He claimed to be God in the flesh. He claimed to live the truth. Why did Jesus not reply to Pontius Pilate? If Jesus was the truth and Pilate standing before him, could not recognize it, then there was nothing Jesus could say that would persuade him of it.

When we recognize that Jesus is the Truth and commit ourselves to follow him, and his teaching, we can be sure and secure. The powers of hell will not prevail against us. We will be able to stand firm against the devil's schemes.

A postscript. Twenty years after my father's automobile accident, Antoinette and I were attending a function at the New Zealand High Commission (equivalent to embassy), in London. As we were circulating we met and introduced ourselves to another young couple. Immediately the wife heard my name she burst into tears and ran out of the room. Her husband explained. She was the daughter of Amos James, our family attorney who had been killed in the accident. She had learned that I and my parents, were in London, but couldn't get up the courage to meet us. Her brother had gone into the Catholic priesthood. Our lives had been impacted by that fatal accident so long ago. The three friends might have survived if they had been wearing seat belts. Life is fragile. When the evil day comes we need the belt of truth to hold us together.

END

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