A few years ago, while visiting a castle with the family, I tried on a chain mail vest. It was very heavy! Probably at least 20 pounds in weight: whilst it was comforting to feel momentarily invincible (sort of), the thought of staggering round a battlefield wearing not just this, but all kinds of other metal protection was less than appealing. Apparently the typical weight for a full set of armour in the Middle Ages was around 60 lbs. Admittedly this is roughly the same as a combat backpack for a modern soldier, albeit a backpack is designed to keep the movement of legs and arms completely free, a benefit not available to the medieval knight. Either way, I was glad to remove the vest, which I must confess I did with some difficulty, and much to the amusement of my family.
Thankfully, in today’s passage we’re encouraged to wear another type of armour, which doesn’t weigh anything at all: the armour of light (v12). St Paul is here addressing candidly the challenges of living as a Christian in the world, and from his own experience he knows we need protection.
But what is this ‘armour of light’? In this passage we see three components: first the light of truth. Paul reminds us that our understanding matters (v11) – he points to the reality of the world around us, and also to the great encouragement that we are closer to the fullness of our salvation than we were before. This remains as true now as it did then – we are closer to the finishing line, so let’s keep going!
Secondly, the light of holiness. Paul urges us to keep our lifestyles pure (v13), in particular our thought lives – if we don’t gratify those, then we’re less likely to indulge in the things those thoughts lead to. As someone once observed, Jesus encourages us to pray ‘lead us not into temptation’ because once we’re in temptation, it’s hard to get out of it.
So far, so good – and you may have noticed that these ideas of light as reflecting both truth and purity were also those we dwelt on yesterday. But there’s a third one here too – the light of love. Ultimately it is love that enables us to dwell in light. Love, as Paul says, is the fulfilment of God’s law (v10). Let us therefore love each other, that we too might be ambassadors of light.
Truth, purity and love – this is the armour of light. May God grant us grace to wear this armour today – and may this defend not just our own hearts, but those of others as well.