The images of the role of swords to me, mostly come from movies about King Arthur and knights and glistening suits of armor or Vikings with big red beards and muscles of steel. Those swords were stained with blood and their blades had seen the flesh and bone of many poor souls that attempted to fight back against such a formidable foe.
Although many of these swords really did see battle, they surely saw most of their action chopping trees, butchering game and being carried into scenarios where one army saw how outnumbered they were and did the smart thing and ran away. Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail comes to mind.
Ephesians 6:17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
A lot of people I have known have thought that when Paul finally gets around to writing about the sword of the Spirit, we get to grab it and start swinging away, mowing down everyone and everything that is any kind of obstacle.
There are people out there that are pretty good at slinging God’s word around, armed to the teeth, waging war on Christians that see and do the “wrong” thing, a world that needs God but gets attacked by his words instead, people dying in need but being spiritually euthanized in their poverty.
But Paul doesn’t switch gears and say to stop standing firm. He doesn’t say to swing the sword. He doesn’t indicate that our fellow man should be casualties of this spiritual war. It is not against flesh and blood but yet we slice the flesh and spill the blood.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
The writer of Hebrews doesn’t mention the word of God attacking anyone. It is used on me when I read it. It slices between what I want and what God wants and forces me to make a choice. It exposes the darkest places and opens the closed doors inside of me that keep God at arm’s length. It is what prepares a place for God to dwell right inside of me, a place where he is close, where he gives me strength and hope. It makes a place where God abides and makes ready to fight my battles for me, insures victory and makes loss into gain.
This sword isn’t about me and being able to judge, condemn and execute the ones who fail, it is where I get the ability to heal, lift up and breathe his life into those that need it most.
When I look out at a world that I think really could use a sword beat-down, I know I need to turn it upon myself and cut away the part of me that forgets that God did not reach out to me when I was rocking life but he reached for my life on the rocks.
I didn’t see Christ hurt anyone with his word. He created, healed, taught, encouraged, blessed, prayed and die with it. He fought the gates of Hell and took on the spirits of evil, conquered them and rose from the dead with it.
I’m not qualified to wield the word against others. I’m only required to carry it, have it do its work inside me, transform me, give me strength and then let its own life and power emerge, not as a judge, jury and executioner but as my hope and life.
This sword makes me a better man. It cuts away the things that are not good in my life, trims the fat, strengthens me to stand firm. With it by my side, I can be the last standing when this battle falls into silence and the eerie carnage of the war has been revealed its ending.
God wins this war. I do not have to raise my weapons against any man. I merely stand firm, clothed in God’s armor.