The Flaming Arrow
I have been studying the book of Ephesians with Beau St. Peter, the Young Life director for Keizer, Oregon. There have been a lot of helpful thoughts for both of us as we encourage each other on our journeys with Jesus.
Recently, we were in chapter six and a teaching from my dear departed friend, John Gilman, surfaced in our discussion. Paul wrote to his friends in Ephesus that they should “take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” John Gilman taught that the flaming arrow is a lie wrapped in a truth. The truth coming at you keeps you from protecting yourself from the arrow, but when it hits you the lie inside imbeds itself in you and does great harm.
As an illustration, I get upset with a person and I say something harsh to them (hard to imagine that I would ever do such a thing). This is a truth that is the surface of the flaming arrow, but when it hits me it carries the additional message that I am a mean person who is unloving and will never know how to be a friend. Then that wrong thought embeds itself in me, sits there and grows. It joins all the other lies that have been fermenting in me over the years and it produces a culture of shame in me. Curt Thompson in The Soul of Shame, writes about how the “evil one” uses this shame in our lives:
“Shame is the emotional weapon that evil uses to corrupt our relationships with God and each other. What we do with shame on an individual level has potentially geometric consequences for any of the social systems we occupy, be that our family, place of employment, church, or larger community.”
And he goes on to give us an insight on how we are to raise the shield of faith to ward off this flaming arrow:
“Shame is not something we ‘fix’ in the privacy of our mental processes; evil would love for us to believe that to be so. We combat it within the context of conversation, prayer, and other communal, embodied actions.”
Beau had a similar insight. As he thought about how he would raise the shield of faith he began by thinking of this as an individual effort – typical American individualism. Then he remembered that throughout the rest of the letter Paul kept emphasizing the power of walking together in unity with each other. And with some research, we discovered that the Roman soldiers linked their shields together in groups of three and four so that all faced the enemy and everyone had their back protected by their companion. Thus, raising the shield is something we do with and for each other as we walk together. When we are walking in openness with each other we can discern what is true – those times when the Spirit is convincing us of our sins and what are the insidious lies from the attack from the evil one.
In Journey of Desire, John Eldredge helps us understand that the lie the Flaming Arrow embeds in us is not true:
“For those who have been born of the Spirit and become new creatures in Christ, sin is no longer the truest thing about us. Since the coming of Christ, everything has changed. The joy of the new covenant is the transformation of our deepest being. We have a new heart, and that means nothing less than this: our core desires are good.”
Paul wrote this same thought to his friends in Corinth:
“When the Lord comes, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5 The motives of our hearts are good even though we sometimes do things that are inconsistent with our heart’s desires.
The conclusion Beau and I came to from our study is that being linked to a few we will be able to affirm our pure hearts, confess anything that is sin and let the lie of the flaming arrow bounce of the shield that a pure heart gives us.