“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matt 11: 12)
St. Ambrose writes: “This is the weapon of a righteous man: to win while retreating, as skilled archers are able, while in retreat, to hit those stronger than themselves.”
What are the arrows we aim at our adversaries?
“Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. ” “We bless them because we must consider them our benefactors. For anyone who persecutes us and puts us to the test, lightens the punishment that we will suffer for our own sins. We will also bless them when God gives us the great crown of the contest.”(Matt. 5: 44–45)
Blessed Theophylact, The Gospel of St. Matthew
What are our shields and armor?
“Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
The whole armor of God is: ‘Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, make no provision for the flesh.’ (Rom. 13:14), following the commandments of God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. (Rom. 13:9-10) By doing so we draw the grace of God to us.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Our enemies are our sinful thoughts, our envy, strife and fears, which cause the grace of God to withdraw from us – leaving us open to the attacks of the cunning one. ‘let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light’. (Rom. 13:12)
Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand honestly in our good works for love of God and neighbor, in our faith and love.
Stand therefore, having your loins girth about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereonto with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints;
And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel. (Eph. 6: 10-19)
Let us turn now to St. John Chrysostom for his interpretation of parts of this passage:
“As the word has power to do all things, so also has he who has the spiritual gift. For ‘the word of God’, he says, ‘is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword’ (Heb 4:12)… By ‘the word of God in this place’, he means on the one hand the ordinances of God, or the word of command, on the other hand that it is in the name of Christ. For if we keep his commandments, with these we will kill and slay the dragon himself, the crooked serpent (Is. 27:1)… ‘With all prayer and supplication’, … Do not limit it I say to certain times of the day, for hearing what he is saying: approach at all times, ‘prayer without ceasing’ .” (Thess. 5:17).
St. John Chrysostom, Homily 24 on Ephesians 6
We change the world through the act of living and sharing the Gospel by and through our presence. God makes use of his witnesses, his saints, and our efforts to live as Christians to bring forth change in others. Others see our light with the eyes of their soul. Some are drawn to it and some react and flee from it. However small, our efforts to change ourselves in Christ will bear fruit in God’s time and providence. Why do we even make the effort? Why do some risk their lives for the gospel? “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for those that love Him.” (Isa. 64:4)
So let up put on our amour of light in Christ and be a witness to those around us.
Finally, here is a story of a modern martyr and witness for Christ:
“Night after night for three years, Jamil endured the same abuse. Different groups of men–leaders of a local Islamic group–came to his home and took turns beating him. In their eyes, he was an infidel, in his small central Asian village, and he was leading others astray from Islam.
Jamil was raised in a moderate Muslim family, but his older brother adopted more radical beliefs when serving a prison sentence. Jamil’s curiosity was piqued by his brother’s views, so he began his own search for spiritual truth. During his studies, he met Christians who shared the gospel with him. Jamil knew he had found the one true God, and he turned his back on Islam for good.
He immediately began sharing the gospel, leading his Islamist brother to Christ as well as three other siblings. He planted four house churches before his church sent him as a missionary to a village composed entirely of Muslims.
Jamil shared the gospel as he worked to support his family. News of his Christian faith quickly spread among the villagers, and they soon decided that he had to be stopped. That’s when the nightly beatings began. They couldn’t allow infidels in their village.
One night as the leaders of the local Islamic group were leaving on a hunting trip, they barged into Jamil’s home at dinnertime to deliver their nightly beating. And this time they were hungry. Turning to Jamil’s wife one of the men gruffly said, “You cook for us!” They sat on the floor around the table looking at her as if they were daring her to refuse their demand. Jamil’s wife looked questioningly at her husband, hoping Jamil would tell her what to do. “Cook for them.”, he told her.
Jamil’s wife dutifully prepared the meal and served the men who had beaten her husband. As they ate, Jamil saw his opportunity and began to share the gospel with them. He knew that sharing the Gospel could lead to more beatings or even worse the beating of his son and possibly his wife. As the men finished their meal, Jamil ended his gospel presentation by saying, “May God bless your hunt.”
The men were astonished. “We came here to eat your food and beat you, but now we cannot,” said the leader. “We will leave you in peace.”
Jamil and his wife were stunned at their response as they push back from the table and left the house.
Days later, the leader of the group invited Jamil to his home to share the Gospel with his family. As the villagers observed all that happened the Gospel began to make headway.”
Voice of the Martyrs, September 2014
This moving story sums up our life as Christians and how we fight our spiritual battles for Christ armed with the Gospel, repentance, humility, prayer and love we find our courage in Christ.
Let us pray for Jamil, his family and all those who are suffering for Christ’s sake throughout the world.
I am a native San Franciscan currently living in Sacramento, CA. Due to health issues in my early 20s, I began a spiritual journey in quest of inner peace and healing. I felt my soul and body were connected and if my soul could heal, perhaps so could my body.
I was a lapsed Catholic who studied Eastern religions. I had a guru and Tibetan lama, practiced prayer and fasting, and meditation techniques. I studied metaphysics, channeling and the life of the soul, which I later taught to others.
Yet, after twenty-five years of seeking within the New Age and Eastern religions, I was left depressed and spiritually unfulfilled. Thanks to my late husband and the grace of God, my spiritual journey ultimately allowed me to convert to back to Christianity, find God and open my heart newly to Jesus Christ through the study of ancient Christianity in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
I am the author of two published books, The Pearl of Great Price and In Christ I am a New Creation, Part I. I am currently working on my third book, A Leap of Faith, and a book about my saint, St. Veronica, my other guardian angel. St. Veronica is the woman with the issue of blood, whom the Lord healed (Matt. 9:20). In 2018, I will be publishing a book about St. Veronica including an Orthodox liturgical service to her.
I am passionate about:
Eastern Orthodox Christianity (Orthodoxy) since my Christian conversion in 1996.
My relationship with Jesus Christ
Striving to live in the world, but not be of the world
Talking about spiritual warfare - there is an unseen battle being fought for the salvation of
Helping others come to peace with the Church and God
Connecting with other Orthodox Christians about their spiritual experiences
Living a full life while dealing with chronic health issues
My dogs and gardening
My saint, St. Veronica
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