Food for thought from Andrew Parry, our Associate Minister
There are many proverbs in the Bible. One of my favourites is “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” Proverbs 19:17. What a superb reason to be a generous giver!
Some proverbs are well hidden – not all are found in the book helpfully called “Proverbs”. One of the little gems hidden deep inside the Old Testament, in a place one is unlikely to search (not quite as unlikely as the Book of Numbers, which is largely about, well, numbers) is this one:
“One who puts on his armour should not boast like one who takes it off.” 1 Kings 20:11.
It is so profound in its economical use of words and images. Surely, if you are going to boast, do it after you have returned from battle? When you take off your armour and see the dust, the dents, perhaps the gore. If ever one is to boast, it is after the deed has been accomplished. When you have something to boast about.
Why would someone boast before having proven anything? Out of swagger, bravado, fear? Perhaps all three. The closest I have come to battle was my time in the emergency services. When there was a callout to a fire or other incident, we could not be sure how big it was. And I remember me and others suddenly yawning our heads off; a way of the body releasing tension. When on the way to an emergency as a paramedic, the challenge was, if anything, more personal: would I know how to deal with whatever faced me? Would my knowledge and experience, our protocols and support, be sufficient for the task? No time to boast.
I think people boast while “strapping on armour”, because when one has put on the armour, or the uniform, or assumed the role, one appears to be the real thing. But it is when we have to do what’s required of the uniform, that the differences show. Can the soldier fight bravely; can the paramedic tend to the injured; can the parent step up to the challenge; does the Christian behave as a follower of Christ?
In all of these, there is a daily battle to be fought. We put on our armour not once, but every day. We become more and more proficient at strapping on our armour. It starts to feel more comfortable, we feel less and less like an impostor, we look back on times when our armour took a blow, there is a dent here, some rust there. But we do not stop. In daily life, in life as a Christian, we do not stop. It is part of who we are, it is part of what we do. We do not fight to become a soldier, a paramedic, a parent. We fight because we are those things. As a Christian, we do not fight to win salvation (what atrocities have been committed in pursuit of that error?) we fight because we have been granted salvation. Then (if you must) you can boast!