Our pastor recently started a series on the armor of God, and, though we haven’t actually gotten to the shield of faith yet, that’s the particular piece that’s captured my attention.
In Christian circles, talking about the armor of God too easily becomes relegated to Sunday School, something that’s easily made into cute graphics and object lessons. Yet it’s a powerful picture of spiritual battles. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) Having established that, Paul continues in that chapter to lay out the armor a Christian needs in this fight. Among these pieces of armor is the shield of faith. Now, what soldier can we think of who’s known for a shield?
Ah, yes, my favorite superhero is indeed known for his mighty shield. As I thought about the shield of faith, I realized that there are many parallels between it and Cap’s shield. So, how does he use his?
- To Defend Himself – Cap’s shield is his greatest defense. Made from the one of the most powerful metals on Earth, the fictional vibranium, this shield repels all attackers and all weapons. Even Thor’s hammer can’t break it. The Internet is quite fond of Cap’s so-called “turtle-mode,” where he tucks his whole body behind his shield. Why wouldn’t he, though, when it’s so incredibly successful as a defense? Our shields are composed of faith, something far more powerful than vibranium. 1 Peter 1:5 talks about us being protected through our faith (this version even uses the word “shielded.”) Just as Cap repels all weapons with his shield, we can repel all attacks of Satan.
- To Defend Others – Have you ever noticed how often Cap uses his shield for the benefit of other people? He covers teammates and civilians with it. He deflects attacks away from people with it. In addition, teammates often pick up the shield and use it themselves. Bucky in The First Avenger and Natasha in Age of Ultron, to name a couple of instances. Captain America’s shield is not just for him. It defends many more than just the superhero it belongs with. In the same way, faith is a refuge. The faith of one is mighty in defense of another. We’re called to stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30), to lift each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and to defend the weak (Psalm 82:3-4). Life is not a solitary adventure; we need each other. And, sometimes, we need someone else’s faith.
- To Inspire People – In many ways, this is more of a byproduct than a deliberate use of the shield. However, byproduct or not, it is powerful. Captain America’s shield is incredibly inspiring. You see that shield and you know everything’s going to be okay. With that shield, Cap freed allied prisoners from Hydra, fought Chitauri in New York, defeated Hydra again close to home, and fought and won countless other battles. Can you imagine how inspiring it would be to stand by that shield? Knowing that Captain America was on my side would take a lot of fear away. And it would inspire me to greatness. Faith can be inspirational, too. Think of some of the true-life stories we love best, stories where one person believed in something bigger than him- or herself. Stories of beating great odds, of standing firm and having faith. These are the stories that stay with us. Knowing Cap fought for me would be comforting; how much more so is knowing God Himself fights for us. Sometimes all it takes is one person’s faith to draw people, like a candle in the darkness. Sometimes all it takes is one man or woman standing firm and believing to inspire faith in others.
- To Attack Enemies – This was the most interesting point to me as I sat in church thinking about the shield of faith. It’s easy to think of a shield as defensive, which is how it’s typically portrayed. However, a shield can also be offensive. Especially in the hands of Captain America, a shield is a weapon. Though he does use guns, Cap seems to prefer his shield for breaking windows and locks, knocking people out, and deflecting enemies’ own weapons against them. Of course, he’s also got some awesome hand-to-hand skills… The integration of the two is flawless, though. I can see a correlation to using the shield of faith with the rest of your armor. I don’t think we usually consider faith to be a weapon, but it is. Faith can move mountains (Matthew 17:20) and break down walls (Hebrews 11:30). Faith is supposed to be active. Use it to take thoughts captive and to pray peace into people’s lives. We are not meant to stand still in this spiritual war, cowering behind our shields. Instead, remember Who you’re putting your faith in: The King of the Universe, Who sets up rulers, demolishes strongholds, and brings victory. You serve a God of awesome power. That shield in your hand? It’s a weapon. Use it for His glory.
I think faith too easily becomes a platitude: “Have faith; everything’s going to be better soon.” “Just keep the faith.” Yeah, thanks. That’s basically meaningless without a solid knowledge of real faith. However, faith in God Almighty can accomplish great things. It’s a shield for believers, defending, inspiring, and attacking. We’re not fighting this battle on our own. We’re fighting on the side of the Lord God, Who has already won. Know that your shield is powerful, and use it for its designed purpose.