I’m writing out some of the thoughts that have been evoked in me as I have been reflecting on the imagery used at the conclusion of the book of Ephesians. Here the Apostle Paul re-summarizes the major themes of the whole letter when he says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6.10-11) I’ve already shared some of what I see as foundational principles to understanding this here and here.
This week I began to dive into the first piece of the “armor” – the belt of truth. Paul says it like this: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…” (v14) In the last post I looked at the actual meaning of this imagery – a Roman military belt was nothing like what we would consider a belt today. Instead, it was like a large leather slip that held all of the other artillery to the warrior’s body.
In this post I’d like to share the two ideas that have been most bouncing around in my mind as I have mediated on this text:
Idea 1: We don’t put on the belt of truth – we tighten it
I didn’t notice this until I had reflected on the passage for awhile, but it suddenly burst out to me. Paul doesn’t tell us to “put on” the buckle of truth. Instead he uses the word “buckled.”
Here’s why I think that is significant. A lot of people get confused about faith – what it is and what it is not, and what to do when we don’t feel we have enough of it. I won’t try to solve all those questions with this post, but I will make an observation based on this imagery. At its simplest level, faith is simply the means by which we are connected to God through Jesus Christ. The language of faith is not one that points to an evaluation of how much knowledge or confidence or courage that a person has. Instead, it is the language of connection. Martin Luther used to say that faith is that which “cements” us to Christ, and I think that is a really helpful way to demystify faith.
If that’s the case, then the moment we are connected to Jesus Christ we are also connected to the truth that is in Jesus Christ. That truth may not always be operating at a level inside of us that leads to the desired transformation, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have access to it.
That is why the Apostle Paul could so confidently command us to “stand firm” with the belt of truth “buckled” around our waist. Truth is not something we either have or don’t have. Instead, faith assures that we remain connected to truth, at least at some level. We don’t need to go find it as much as we need to learn to “buckle” it on and in.
Idea 2: Truth is not a body of information to memorize as much as it is a person to learn
This is the other idea that’s been bouncing around in me, and it flows from the point above. Faith and Truth are so linked to each other, but not in the way that we often hear it said. When someone says they are “defending” the faith, it often sounds like it is a specific doctrine or piece of information that they are fighting for.
But that doesn’t seem to be how Jesus talks about it. When he says in John 14.6 that he is the “way, the truth, and the life,” I don’t think he’s talking about a specific body of information. When he says in John 8.32 that “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” I think he is talking about more than just a specific body of information. I think he is describing his very self.
In some of my earlier posts I explored the unusual language from Paul on the need to “learn Christ.” That’s another interesting image to juxtapose with the the “belt of truth.” If truth is less a body of information to memorize and more a person to learn, then this language from Paul makes absolute sense.
Jesus is truth, and faith allows us to be connected to that truth. It may take the rest of our lives to “buckle” that truth in to the deepest parts of our selves, but the process remains the same. Jesus is the truth, and that truth leads to life. As we experience truth in the form of this beautiful, risen person, that truth sets us free.