Written by: Blythe Moseman
So much of what we see on social media relates to the controversy of “snowflakes” needing to get thicker skins, “boomers” needing to be more culturally sensitive, and just about everyone needing to be more considerate of others’ triggers. While people promote tolerance (in the seemingly most intolerant time in a long minute), more and more people find themselves offended, discouraged, and ticked off by little things other people say and do.
We see a lot of posts encouraging people to heal, move on, and get a thicker skin.
I suggest that we Christians don’t need a thicker skin. We need thicker armor instead.
Thicker skin implies that you are tough, iron-clad, unfeeling, incapable of being hurt, and able to shrug off any offense that comes your way. But that description is diametrically opposed to what Christians are called to be: meek, able to grieve and rejoice with others, gentle, kind, vulnerable, strong, faithful, and just. If we continue to harden ourselves to the world in an effort to grow a thicker skin, we will lose so many opportunities to minister to others in their own pain and grief, as Paul calls us to do: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).
Putting on armor usually means that you acknowledge that you need to protect something soft. Instead of hardening themselves, soldiers instead take measures to protect their vital organs. In Christians’ cases, this means our heart and our ability to love people. One of the promises of God is to give his followers a heart of flesh: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). This heart of flesh is one that is soft not only to the calling of the Spirit but also to others’ suffering. Such a vulnerable heart does need protection from the arrows of the enemy (which often come through the mouths of others), but it does not need to be closed off completely. We need thicker armor, not thicker skin.
Ephesians 6:13-17 is a well–known passage: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (NIV).
But people often forget about verse 18, which continues, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” The point of the armor isn’t always for us: it’s for others.
The armor of God not only protects us against the “powers and principalities of darkness,” (Ephesians 6:10), but it also equips us to be alert and ready to love others. The belt of truth protects the most vulnerable parts of our souls and ties everything we know about God together, as we stay grounded with what is true and right and good–as we “stand firm.” We need a thicker belt, not thicker skin.
The breastplate of righteousness can only come from Christ, for “God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of Christ’s atonement for us on the cross are we able to rest in his righteousness’s protection of our hearts. This news is good not only for us, but for others as well. We don’t have to rely on our own righteousness to love others, because Christ’s righteousness envelops us and flows through us. We don’t need to be offended by what others say about us, say behind our backs, or do to us, because we know our righteousness, our right standing with God, lies not in others’ opinions but in the work of Christ on the cross. This breastplate of righteousness is one of the most important tools in protecting our hearts. It gives us hope and helps us protect a gentle and vulnerable heart that trusts in the amazing blood of Jesus. We need a thicker righteousness, not thicker skin.
Shoes fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace has always been an interesting piece of armor in my mind. I always thought it meant “feet that are ready to go share the gospel,” which it likely does. But these shoes also equip the believer to be ready to stand, to be ready to bring peace. Instead of worrying about triggering others or being triggered ourselves, we Christians need to be ready to bring the truth of peace: that Christ has died for the covering of all sins (even ones against us), that the Spirit of peace resides in us, and that angry and hurting people need peace just as much as we do. We can be ready to be messengers of that peace when we put on the shoes of the readiness of peace. These shoes protect us from rocky areas of conflict as we pursue the Kingdom peace. If we’re constantly tripping on stones, how can we do as David urges: “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14)? We can’t pursue peace if we’re tripping on stones, which is why we need thicker shoes. What conflict is there that Christ has not already taken care of? We can rest in the peace that Christ has already won our battles, and we can be ready to share that peace with others. We need thicker shoes.
The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of peace can’t happen without the shield of faith. Habakkuk 2:4 says, “The righteous shall live by faith.” If we don’t believe that God’s word is true, we’ll never be able to put on the belt. If we don’t believe Christ died for our sins, we’ll never be able to don the breastplate. If we don’t believe that Christ is victor and the King of peace, we’ll never be able to slip our feet into those shoes. Each of these requires faith. Faith alone will protect us from the flaming darts of the enemy–the lying tongue of our neighbor–the jabs of an angry comrade. If we can’t rest in the promises of God, we’ll never be able to protect our own hearts against the enemy’s attacks. We need a thicker shield, a stronger faith.
We can’t have faith without the knowledge of Scripture, which is where the helmet and sword come in. If we don’t know the promises of God, how can we rest in them? How can we protect our hearts and minister to others by serving them and protecting them if our sword is dull? Soldiers don’t wear armor just to protect themselves. They don’t just wear it for defense. Soldiers wear armor to protect others. They wear it for offense (but not the kind that everyone currently thinks). Christian soldiers need to wield their swords and don their armor for the pursuit of truth and the practice of wisdom: to heal hurting hearts. To mourn with those who mourn. To protect the innocent. To save the lost. To bring the Kingdom come.
So when we get into heated arguments on Facebook or nasty conversations around the cafeteria table, we don’t need thicker skin. We need thicker armor. Put on that truth, that righteousness, that peace. Put on that faith and that knowledge of salvation. Protect hurting hearts with thick armor that will bring the Kingdom come. We don’t need invincible soldiers. We need soldiers with thicker armor who fight for what is true and noble and right. We need disciples who are known by their love. We need soldiers to bring the Kingdom come.
Put on some thicker armor.