Put on the shoes of the gospel of peace…..

Ephesians 6:10-17 tells us to put on the “whole armor of God”- girdle (belt) of truth, breastplate of rightousness, shoes of the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the word. I have been taught to think of this in the context of Paul’s time, as the battle attire of a Roman centurion. When I think of the shoes I think of metal- reinforced, well- fitted first century “combat boots”. Undoubtedly, they would have permitted long marches and provided protection to vulnerable extremities in battle (think Achille’s heel). I have also been told that they had sharpened cleats on the bottom to facilitate secure footing on any terrain. The cleats also could have been used to humiliate, threaten, or punish potentially rebellious citizens when applied with pressure against the backside or other body parts.
So how does this metaphor- combat boots, a soldier’s shoes- apply to the gospel of peace. The NIV translation says “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” NKJV says “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”
In Deuteronomy 33:24-25 in Moses’ blessings upon the tribes of Israel we read “And of Asher he said:’ Asher is most blessed of sons; Let him be favored by his brother, and let him dip his foot in oil. Your sandals shall be iron and bronze; As your days, so shall your strength be.'” John MacArthur’s commentary notes that shoes reinforced with hard metal suited both country people and soldiers. When one considers the climbing and walking required of a shepherd and others of a nomadic culture, that makes sense.
How have we tended to think of the sandals of Christ and the disciples? I have thought of them as the standard leather strap sandals that we who live at the beach see and often wear. Such sandals, we know, would have led to dirty feet that would have required washing by a household servant (or a humble servant-savior!)
On the night of the Passover, as the children of Israel were awaitng their time to depart with Moses, they were instructed to prepare a roasted lamb and eat it with their coats tucked in their belts, with their sandals on, and their staffs in their hands- in other words, ready to move out on a minute’s notice. (Exodus 12:8-11) It appears that the injunction to have one’s shoes on implies a readiness to move quickly, to seize the moment, to be prepared for the call to action.
So it seems that, whether the image is that of a centurion’s combat boots or of a pilgrim’s or shepherd’s sturdy sandals, it is really irrelevant. The point is not the type of shoe, but that the feet are shod, ready for a rigorous journey to wherever one’s leader or the demands of one’s job call.
The Roman army maintained peace through strength- Pax Romano, the longest and most widespread of any empire up until that time. They could mobilize quickly. They were battle ready, in every sense.
Am I fitted with the right footwear for the spiritual battle that Paul tells us we are in? Do I have on the sturdiest that I own? Am I standing at the ready with the “gospel of peace”? Do I know the gospel of peace? Is the Prince of Peace my commanding officer or overseeing shepherd?
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Sometimes a peacemaker must be prepared to do battle. There can be no peacefaking or peacebreaking responses. (Ken Sande’s book, “The Peacemaker”). True peace is Christ’s. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Why would Christ say that His peace is not as the world gives? Furthermore, why would he say to not let our hearts be troubled and do not be afraid? It must be an awesome peace, a peace that speaks with authority and power, a peace that subdues rebellion by the strength of its very presence.
God is teaching me about peace and about peacemaking. Sadly, I have not been very good at it. I trust that I will be a better student from this point on. I finally understand that I am to be continously ready, alert to opportunities to tell the good news of Christ’s peace.