The worst thing about the end of the summer holidays for me was shopping for school shoes.
I dreaded it! With awkward feet, it was always really hard to find a decent pair – and definitely not one you liked!
I particularly remember one occasion from when I was about 13. By the time we got to the umpteenth shoe shop, we were frazzled and running out of time. We needed sensible, sturdy, plain black school shoes – but the only pair in my (rather-large-for-school-shoes) size was navy blue. I remember the look on my mother’s face when the assistant, trying to do what she could to help, suggested trying a novel alternative – an open-toe sandal so my feet could stick out at the end! There was nothing even vaguely suitable about them - open-toes and school playgrounds really don’t mix! – and we left the shop rather quickly!!
Shoes really do need to be fit for purpose, and that’s what Paul is getting at in Ephesians 6:15.
Through the previous verses, Paul has repeated the need for believers to stand firm and get ready for battle. A Roman soldier’s sandals were rugged and fit for the task – their hobnail soles enabled the soldier to stand his ground. As soldiers of the Lord Jesus, we need to have our feet suitably shod too - fitted with 'the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace'.
The message of the gospel is what helps us to stand firm.
So what is the gospel? Paul describes it earlier in the book as a message of peace,[Ephesians 2:12-18] but this isn’t peace and quiet, or the peace of rest, but peace and reconciliation between former enemies – between us and God.
This is the good news of Jesus, who reconciles God and man, made possible through the death of the Prince of peace – Jesus himself [ch2:14] is our peace.
Knowing that we have peace with God should enable us to stand firm. It’s the gospel that assures us of our safety. When the battle rages on around us it gives us the courage to stand up in the face of the enemy’s onslaught.
It’s at times of crisis and insecurity, such as all of us have experienced with Covid-19, that we find out what we are really standing on. If our security comes from our family, or our job, our health, or even our church – we will quickly wobble when those things are stripped away. We need a firm foundation, and the only safe place to stand is on the gospel of Jesus.
If you are expecting the Christian life to be feel good and comfortable, like a pair of cosy slippers, then perhaps you haven’t really understood the gospel. To be a Christian is to be a soldier in a battle, and it’s neither easy nor comfortable. We are at war with our own sinful nature – or we should be – and our enemy is relentless. But despite the fact there is a war going on – the message of the gospel is that we are now at peace. What's more, God has given us his Spirit to help us in every battle we face.
True gospel shoes are sturdy.
Knowing that we have peace with God should give us a deep assurance that we are secure in Him. Our sins are forgiven, and we need not fear our enemy.
Peace and contentment are easy to fake on the outside when we are struggling on the inside. But we’re not supposed to act tough when we are not! The gospel helps us understand our need to firmly lean on Jesus alone – knowing that we are weak, but He is strong. The Psalmists often use our ability to stand to describe the deep security that a restored relationship with God gives us:
'My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled.'
'He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights... ...You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.'
'You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.'
'He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.'
'For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling'
In Jesus, we stand on solid ground, and he holds us secure.
But the message of the gospel is not just for us.
A Roman’s sandals were lashed to his legs with leather straps. In his shoes, he could stand firm and not fall, but he could also run. A soldier is not meant to be rooted to the spot!
Paul tells us that our feet are to be fitted with readiness – not just standing firm, but active. Our enemy is always ready with new tactics and we need to respond quickly in defense, but as soldiers of Jesus we are also to be ready for something else – we are bringers of peace.
We don’t often think of soldiers as bringers of peace, but as Christians we are not fighting for our own survival. We are charged with being a peacekeeping force, by sharing the gospel of peace – that was certainly what Paul was all about:
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God."
2 Corinthians 5:17-20*
Our enemy is Satan and his forces, not the people he has enslaved. As Christians, it is our responsibility to bring the freedom of the gospel of peace with God to others.
"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" Romans 10:14,15*
What a privilege to share with others the message of freedom and peace with God! But each of us has the capacity to be a bringer of peace in other ways too. The gospel should be making a difference in every area of our lives.
What about at home, at work, with our family, in our relationships? How does the gospel of peace and reconciliation affect those? We need to be asking ourselves:
Am I helping to bring peace, or making things worse?
Am I resolving to forgive, or letting things grow into bitterness?
To be a peacemaker can be costly and painful - but it is a precious thing. In Matthew 5:9 Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers".
To put on our gospel shoes means to stand on the truths of the gospel enjoying the security that only peace with God can bring, and to take it wherever we go...
...and that gives us beautiful feet!
'How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”' Isaiah 52:7*
*Bible quotations taken from (c) New International Version 2011