This post is the latest in a series inspired by fellow cop-turned-minister Tony Miano’s excellent “Take Up the Shield: Comparing the Uniform of the Police Officer & the Armor of God”
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16)
Our next piece of spiritual armor in our current study series on the Armor of God is our “police riot/SWAT shield” of faith. Now you would be right to ask if God (through His Word, the Bible) uses “police riot shield.” No, the imagery that Paul (writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit) was the large, rectangular shields carried by the Roman “peacekeepers” of his day (and with the understanding that keeping the “peace” or serving in combat was absolutely brutal in that time).
Now for context sake, it is important that we understand the shields Paul used for this illustration. A Roman scutum (Wikipedia actually does a decent job with this), or thureos, was generally covered with animal hide or heavy fabric that could be soaked with water or even a type of Roman fire retardant that could in fact “extinguish” the “flaming arrows” (v. 16) and other projectiles that would be fired at the soldiers in battle. Especially when used in a shield wall or the Roman Testudo formation, it was a very effective defense (albeit the warriors of that time had to train with their shields and hold unit discipline if they were to be effective – same for us today).
Now clearly, a modern ballistic police shield is not the exact same item but I can tell you from experience that they are still pretty good at deflecting such things as Molotov cocktails and other incendiary devices hurled at the police in riot situations. And the spiritual connotation is right on target.
Now it is true that most police officers in the United States are not faced with carrying riot/SWAT shields on a daily basis (mine mostly “lived” in my patrol vehicle’s trunk except when needed). But we do in fact carry something DAILY that is a reminder of a shield – our badges, In fact, I call my badge a “shield” more than any other title.
So what is the spiritual nexus for us here (meaning, “What does God want us to learn” from this spiritual equipment that can be used as both an offensive and defensive weapon)?
For starters, fellow cop-turned-minister Tony Miano does an outstanding job with this subject in his seminal work, Take Up the Shield (see the link above). Tony correctly writes that an officer holding a ballistic shield has to have a certain amount of “faith” that it will work as designed during a police engagement:
“I held the shield with a certain amount of faith–faith in the ability of the shield to do its job should the suspect have a gun and decide to shoot me; faith in my fellow deputies to handle the call with sound tactics, common sense and courage.”
But there is also so much more here for us from God’s perspective. Spiritually (meaning biblically) speaking, Tony correctly writes:
“The faith Paul is referring to when he speaks of carrying the spiritual ‘shield of faith’ is a trust in God that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ…”
It is the kind of faith that embraces the FACT that God’s Word (the Bible) is true because “the Word of says it’s true”; the kind of faith that accepts that Jesus Christ is “the only way of salvation because Jesus said He is the only way” (John 14:6).
God has so much more to say to us about this kind of faith, but Hebrews 11:1 sums it up nicely:
“Now faith is the assurance of all things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
AMEN! Clearly, the shield was vitally important to the soldier’s of Paul’s and Jesus’ day. It provided a blanket of protection. It was meant to be taken up in all circumstances. It served as the outermost barrier against the enemy’s attack. For the police officer, our badge/shield also serves to identify us as both as peace officers and the agency we serve with. Likewise, a Christian who takes up the shield of faith identifies himself as a warrior who serves the Commander of the Lord’s army (see Joshua 5:14).
Friends, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Clearly, Satan’s attacks can sometimes cause us to doubt God. But the kind of faith Paul is writing about here should prompt us to believe/trust God with all our hearts. We give in to temptation (a kind of “fiery arrow”) when we believe what it has to offer is better than what God has promised. Faith reminds us that, though fulfillment of God’s promise may not be readily visible to us, God is true to His Word. When Satan attempts to plague us with doubt or entice us with instant gratification (more fiery arrows), faith recognizes the deceptiveness of his tactics and quickly extinguishes the arrows. When Satan accuses us, faith chooses to believe that Jesus has redeemed us and that there is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1, 34; Revelation 12:10–12).
Faith (the saving kind) is one of the greatest gifts God gives the true believer (1 Corinthians 13:13), and it is the means by which we receive grace and come into right relationship with God (Ephesians 2:8–9). The things Satan attempts to use to discourage us or cause us to fear can become tools and weapons against him when we have placed ourselves under God’s command and protection. All genuine, born again believers (Is that you?) have this promise:
“Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
Faith is in fact a shield between us and the schemes of Satan. When we believe God and take Him at His word, we remain grounded in truth, the lies of the enemy lose their power, and we become overcomers. In that way, faith is indeed our battle shield. Faith is in fact a shield between us and the schemes of Satan. Click To Tweet
Finally, and as I share in each of these posts, we must not forget that God’s spiritual armor and weapons–including our shields of faith–are “issued” by God ONLY to genuine, born again believers (“Christians” as God alone gets to define it). In fact, if you are an unbeliever (non-Christian), you are utterly “shield-less” against the enemy’s determined attacks. So is that you? Are you right with God today? Are you sure? And are you locked “shield to shield” with other believers (a Christian “shield wall”)? If not, I implore you, surrender in faith to Christ (our “battle Captain”) TODAY while you still can.
Again, stand firm and hold the line behind Christ our King and Captain!