But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 (NIV).
Let’s talk about the full armor of God. This verse plainly mentions it, putting on “faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” That verbiage easily lines up with Ephesians 6; go read it and see for yourself. Think about armor and why it’s needed, who uses it, and what it’s used for. Then come back to 1 Thessalonians to ask yourself a question:
Who is protected by armor?
Of course the wear is protected; the soldier, the hunter, the defender. The armor protects the wearer during combat, from elements, while being attacked. It shields the wearer from harm and gives them confidence to advance, to do their part in battle. It’s no accident, then, that Paul speaks of the fruits of God’s Spirit as armor. He speaks of faith, love, and hope as real, tangible defenses against the attacks of the evil one. Faith and love cover the heart, protecting the core of the body. Hope of salvation, which is a promise and not a wish, protects the head: home of the brain and four of the five senses. Faith and love literally keep us alive while the hope of salvation covers how we sense the world – and others – around us.
So ask that question again: who is protected by armor? Perhaps Paul is also alluding to the fact that the person NOT wearing the armor of God benefits from it. Think about it: faith, hope, and love are all from God and benefit the person not being covered by them as much as they do the person shielded by them. They are the qualities even un-believers desire and model. They are the foundation of charity and charitable behavior. They are the basis for kindness and understanding, even our entire civilization. Even when someone doesn’t believe in God (and, thus, chooses to not wear the full armor of Him), they benefit from these practical, caring qualities of Him.
This is a tough world. The other day I mentioned how people close to me are being attacked. I wonder if they see people around them wearing the armor of God, and I wonder what they think about it. Jesus never promised the world would be rosy: He promised He would walk with us through it and never leave us. When we order our lives around Him, His Spirit begins to impart faith, love and hope into us that we can wear to both nourish us and protect us. That’s the point, too, when it begins to show to others. And that’s the greatest protection of all.
For further reading: Ephesians 6:10-17, 1 Corinthians 13:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:9.
Lord, let me wear Your armor as a defense for the people I meet today.