When I was commenting last week on my foot woes, which definitely appear to be on the mend at the moment , a friend of mine suggested that I comment some on Ephesians 6:15, which reads: “And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” This verse, of course, is part of the famous passage on the whole armor of God, and for the most part, it is probably the least familiar of them. Most of us, after all, are inclined to ignore our feet if we possibly can. Our feet are what keep us in touch with the ground, and as a result we think them dirty and unpleasant even if we spend all of our time wearing socks or something else to cover them. Washing a feet was the task of the lowest servant in biblical times, and comes down to believers as the most humble task that we are called upon on an annual basis to do at the Passover , something that never fails to fill me with a sense of awkwardness and discomfort.
When we think of having our feet shod with the gospel of peace, we are inclined not to pay it much mind compared to the far more obvious sword of the Spirit or the breastplate of righteousness or the helmet of salvation, but the sandals of peace, as we shall call them here, are of vital importance in our Christian walk. After all, we cannot stand to fight unless we are strong in our feet. Most people may take this for granted, but those of us who have frequent and alarmingly varied problems with our feet know all too well that we cannot take this for granted. When to stand and to walk, much less to engage in spiritual warfare, is a task that requires heroic effort and a great deal of suffering, one does not take one’s feet for granted. So, as someone who definitely does not take my feet for granted, it is worthwhile to ponder at least a little bit about what importance it is for us to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
What sort of peace is meant here? The vision of a Christian believer as a Roman soldier equipped for spiritual warfare seems incongruous upon a basis of peace. Yet before we can effectively engage in the warfare that we are called to participate in as believers we are required to be at peace in a fundamental and important way. Who, after all, is our enemy? Ephesians 6:11-12 reminds us: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” In order to effectively make war on Satan and his wicked hosts, we must be at peace with God and with others insofar as it is within our power to do so. Even those people with whom we debate and quarrel and argue are not themselves the real enemy, but are rather either wittingly or unwittingly doing the dirty work of the real enemy. All too often we rush in with the sword of the Spirit and cut and slash people who are flesh and blood, who are not our true enemies. To make war effectively, we must focus our attacks on the enemy as defined by our commanders and not to go off on our own understanding and attack those with whom we are not properly at war.
Many armies have forgotten that one needs to be at peace to be effective in going to war. The effort of the Confederate States of America, for example, was notoriously a shambles in this way. After the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson in July of 1863, for example, Kirby Smith’s command in the Trans-Mississippi was called Kirby Smithdom because it was effectively cut off from the main fronts of the war in the east. Likewise, many generals, especially under Braxton Bragg, were more enthusiastic fighting him or fighting each other than fighting the Union troops ably led against them by men such as Grant and Thomas. Those who during the Cold War claimed that it was better to be Red than dead forgot the important lesson that one often ended up both in Communist Regimes as diverse as the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia, none of which were lukewarm about killing their own people in the name of doctrinaire purity to a godless and abominable political system. Likewise, a great part of the evil of Hitler’s regime was the way that it offered the slaughter of defenseless civilians, especially Jews, as substitute victories for the defeats on the Eastern front. Quite a few armies, much to their shame, forgot who the real enemy was.
Have we forgotten who the real enemy is in our own lives and in our own world? Our enemies are not our friends and family with whom we may have disagreements and occasional conflicts. Our enemies are not those who have largely similar beliefs to us but slightly different beliefs about matters of government, as strident as they may be (or as we may be) about such matters. Our enemies are not those with whom we have different political beliefs, although we must be honest where political doctrines themselves are clearly the doctrines of demons, especially as they concern calling good what God calls evil. Rather, the real enemies are those spirits and attitudes that lie behind the conflicts that we face in life, and at times we must admit that these evils lie within us as well. Until we are at peace as God wishes, and until we are one as God and Jesus Christ are one, we will not be able to win the sort of spiritual warfare that we are engaged in, because our swords will be pointed at the wrong people and our feet will not be solidly on the foundation of faith by which we triumph and overcome the difficulties of our live.
 See, for example: