“Wear shoes on your feet which are the Good News of peace” – Ephesians 6:15
Now, I’m no Imelda Marcos but I do love a good shoe – namely a brown boot, or a flip flop (mostly because it’s fun to say!). Whilst shoes are fun to collect, they serve a very functional purpose – to protect our feet and help us move from one location to another without injury (most of the time!). And no shoe was more practical than that which adorned the foot of the Roman soldier.
Many scholars believe that the “shoes of peace” Paul was referring to was actually the caliga, which is also known as the ‘half-boot’. It was a sort of sandal-y boot made from leather, with 3 straps that were pulled up and laced around the ankle. The soles of the shoe-boot were studded with small spikes, which helped give the soldier grip and a firm footing over uneven terrain. As walking was the primary mode of transport, these boots had to be comfortable and reliable. The soldier needed to be able to run into battle without thinking about where they were putting their feet.
Ephesians 6:15 talks about the gospel of peace/good news (depending on which translation you’re reading). I want to take a moment to look at what Paul meant when he wrote this. The Greek word that he used was euangelion, which means good news. It was a nonreligious word that was used at that time to refer to an empire or kingdom and how the power, order and riches of that empire/kingdom brought with it good news for those who are faithful or have allegiance to that empire/kingdom. In this context, Paul is referring to the Kingdom of God, and the good news of God’s promises that await those who choose to follow Christ. The good news or gospel message of peace is that Jesus’ sacrifice, his death and resurrection, bought us salvation. Because of him, we get to enter into a relationship with God and live under forgiveness and the unconditional love of God.
As Christians, we are called to share this good news with others. Matthew 28:18-20 says: “Then Jesus came close to them and said, “All authority of the universe has been given to me. Now wherever you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age.”. However, it can be a bit daunting sometimes, even just thinking about sharing the good news with others. This is where we can take comfort in the peace aspect of things. John 14:27 says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. God promises to walk with us through all things, and with His strength we can be brave in sharing our faith with others. The gospel boots equip us to walk through rough areas. John 16:33 says “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world”. Our hope in Jesus and the strength we receive from God give us a firm foundation – a sure foothold – to proceed on the battlefield.
The New Living Translation puts Ephesians 6:15 like this: “For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared”. Other translations talk about putting on the readiness of the gospel. Fully prepared! Readiness?! For what?!
Ready for battle. Fully prepared for whatever distraction or debris Satan will throw at us. Enemies of the Roman empire would sometimes place sharp, spiked objects on the ground in front of the before battle. Any attacking soldier not wearing shoes substantial enough for the attack would soon find himself crippled or killed. Our enemy, Satan, does not want us to win or to succeed. He wants us to fail. He will place his own sharp, spiked objects on the ground in front of us, to try and cause us to stumble. He will cause disunity, conflict, fear, make us feel useless, lie to us, ANY thing he can to make us lose our foothold. But, just as a good soldier will have studied his enemy’s strategies and be confident in his own strategy, so must we be confident in God. The more we study His word, and dig our heels into the truth that comes from Christ’s death and resurrection, the harder we are to knock over, and the more likely we are to keep moving forward. Only the shoes God gives us can protect our feet and help us safely navigate the battlefield. As 1 Peter 3:15 says “…if someone asks you about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” Sharing our faith is one of the best ways to maintain a sure footing. As one scholar put it “readiness to bear witness to Jesus Christ as God’s peacemaker” – we should always be ready to share the good news, always ready to answer questions and to emulate Christ in our words AND actions. Always ready to defend the gospel.
Shoes have a purpose. Shoes are for moving! We are expected to move. With the “readiness of the gospel of peace shoes”, we have nothing to fear. No matter what debris is throw at us, no matter what traps the devil sets for us, God has everything under control. We can march unafraid because we carry the good news of what Jesus accomplished on the Cross.
As we saw in John 16:33, the Christian journey is long and hard. Fear and uncertainty can threaten to stop us in our tracks. But Matthew 11:28-30 says that in Christ we can find rest when the road is too tiring: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. We are not in this battle alone. Just as Roman army advanced in formation, so must the church walk together, help to adjust crooked armour, and remind each other of the peace we have in Christ. Peace is more than just an absence of war or conflict, it comes from unity and closeness with God. And it is that relationship with God, through the works of Christ that enable us to have shoes suitable enough for the journey we are called to make.