Thursday, December 22, 2005

Off Duty Christian?

Recently, a uniformed local police officer walked into a supermarket to buy a few items. As the officer paid for her groceries, she was frantically accosted by a civilian shopper. "The bank down the aisle is being held up, you've got to do something!," the civilian shopper yelled. The bank was on the premises of the supermarket. Unaffected by the civilian's plight for help, the officer responded sarcastically, "and, why are telling me?" The civilian answered, "Aren't you a police officer?" Scoffing, the officer replied, "call 911, I'm off duty." Astonished, the shoppers looked at the officer in dismay, as she walked away. "How could she be so callous and unconcerned?," they asked one another in disbelief, while the bank robber fled the scene.

Has a situation like that ever happened to you, where you thought the person in charge should have helped, and instead they left the scene? How did you feel? Do you think the officer's response was correct? Or were the shoppers wrong to assume she would help because she was uniformed? What if she had been wearing civilian clothes, do you think she would have identified herself as an officer of the law? Is she under obligation to do so, and anyway, how do we know when a cop is off duty? Is there even such thing as an off duty cop?

Our lesson tells us that each Roman soldier wore a belt around his waist, mainly to hold his flowing robes firm to his body lest they get in his way during a fight. An off duty Roman soldier was easily identified because he was not wearing his belt. As a private citizen, yet an employee of the government, he was allowed off-duty time. But, and I say this gingerly, can a Christian soldier ever take off his belt of truth and go on a weekend pass or vacation? Is there such a thing as an off duty Christian? Is it possible that a Christian can loosen his belt of truth and still remain a Christian? Perhaps he can, but each time he does, he runs the risk of never being able to put it on again. For each time the Christian ventures out without the truth, he is in the camp of Satan; in that moment he is believing -or causing others - to believe in a lie. Thus returning to the pure, unadulterated belt of truth becomes more difficult, precisely because other belts have become more attractive.

If Paul says the belt of truth should be put on, before any other part of the armor, it must be important. In actuality, the truth is the undergarment of our experience. As a part of our amour, truth is so important, that God commands us to know it: "And ye shall know the Truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:23). Furthermore, the scripture not only says that we should only know the truth, but that Christ Himself is the truth, "... I Am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). So to study 'truth' is to study Christ. In the 1st three chapters of Ephesians, we learned that the Father put us all in Jesus, making Jesus the last Adam. Consequently, in Jesus we live, have died and are resurrected. Thus when we accept the Gospel by faith, the Father puts Christ in us. This process which is called Justification / Sanctification, means that as we focus on the glorious truths 'in Christ,' our minds progressively become infused with His mind, and as a result, we are progressively cleansed from Sin, and enabled to reach the fullness of the measure and stature of Christ. What wonderful and powerful truth to us has been made known! Let's keep the belt on folks!

In conclusion, a Roman soldier was known to be on duty because he wore the belt. By the same token, a Christian soldier is known to be on duty because he / she wears the belt of truth, and goes forth to the fight filled with the Agape love of Christ (John 13:34, 35). This Christmas season it is my prayer that we will not forget this scriptural belt of truth, and tie up our garments instead with a flimsy cord of rope.

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