In the ancient world, a soldier’s life often depended on the strength of the men standing next to him. Literally. Not in a “I need you to stand with me so that I’m not along on the line here” kind of way but more of a “If you don’t keep your shield up then I’m probably going to get gutted” kind of way.
This is the nature of a shield wall. Ever seen the move 300? It’s rated R for a reason if you haven’t but there’s a great moment when King Leonidas asks a man “how high can you lift your shield?” He asks because every man in the formation is required to shield the man to his left and if a soldier can’t lift his shield, it isn’t just his life that’s at stake but the life of the man next to him. Even worse, should two men fall that’s enough to break the line of the shield wall and the whole formation and probably the entire unit of soldiers are pretty much guaranteed to be fertilizer.
When Paul says in Ephesians 6:10-18 “This is why you must take up the full armor of God….and take your stand,” he is talking about taking our place in the shield wall. Yes, each individual must be properly equipped and each individual has their own enemy in their face to deal with, but we are a SINGLE unit. There is only ONE shield wall and every Christian needs to take his or her place in it. There is one unit, one shield wall, and one body. And while it’s great to see these awesome pillars of Christian faith standing tall and victorious doing great feats in ministry, I fear the most for them who seem to have few brothers and sisters holding the line with them.
One person cannot hold the line. One person can mark a change, one person can keep the line from breaking, but one person can’t hold it on their own. After the way my summer has gone so far I can tell you how much I’ve needed my brothers and sisters on the line with me encouraging me to stand and hold the line. I’ve needed the ranks of the body behind me when my footing has started to slip and I’ve needed people to shield me from “the flaming arrows of the enemy” that I didn’t see coming.
so the question I ask you as we go into this 4th of July weekend is this: do you know who’s standing beside you?