“and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).
Almost 25 years ago I was at a pastors’ fraternal in California. I asked a friend of mine if he had any sermon tapes (yes, cassette tapes) I could listen to on my drive home. He gave me a handful of tapes from a sermon series on Eph. 5. I popped the first one in and started driving. I was a husband, a father of young children, and a pastor. I had become well-acquainted with the ins and outs of “biblical domestic piety.” The roles and responsibilities for husbands and wives was something in the forefront of my Reformed worldview. But as I listened to the sermon, “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” I became painfully aware that I had forgotten the Gospel. I had forgotten that at the center of my marriage was not roles and responsibilities, but the Gospel. I had forgotten, in the realm of marriage, that the Gospel says that I am a sinner, my wife is a sinner, and sinners need the Gospel. I pulled over and wept. I confessed to God that I had become demanding, I had put expectations on my wife that became like a new law, and I had failed to love her as a sinner in need of grace. I wept as I confessed that I had failed to respond to her as a sinner myself, in need of grace. I had failed to keep the Gospel of peace shoes on. It was a pivotal moment for me as a husband.
This piece of the armor is interesting. Footwear is important in athletics. You don’t run a race in cowboy boots. You don’t play basketball in high heels. Appropriate footwear is a necessity. In ancient warfare, as in modern, footwear plays an incredibly significant role. Good footwear helps keep you marching. It can help keep you from slipping over rough or slippery terrain. Most importantly, it can give stability in hand to hand combat. The Roman soldier was equipped with footwear called “caligae,” which was a functional sandal/boot, made of leather. The soles were thick, equipped with hob nails that functioned like cleats for better traction. They had wrap-around leather straps that went up to the calf for better ankle support. This footwear was made for fighting.
“Shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace” sounds strange to us. The word “preparation: could mean “readiness” or it could mean, “firm footing.” Feet ready with the Gospel, or feet firmly planted in the Gospel. The Gospel is also described as the Gospel of peace. The Gospel is a message of peace, Isa. 52:7; Eph. 2:14-16. The Gospel brings peace between us and God, and it brings peace in our human relationships. So, the picture could convey a number of perspectives: The Gospel gives us preparation for the battle, we must be ready to share the Gospel, and we must stand firm in and even advance the Gospel.
In marriage, both spouses must be standing firm in the Gospel, for themselves and for the other. What I mean by that is that I must see myself through the lens of the Gospel all the time, I am a sinner in need of grace. I sin. I need a Savior. In the Gospel I have a Savior who loves me, forgives me, and helps me. When I am conscious of my own need for the Gospel, I love easier and am easier to love. But I also need to see my spouse through the lens of the Gospel. My spouse needs grace because he/she is a sinner. Their Savior is the ultimate source of grace, but I need to be a vehicle through which grace comes. As an instrument of Gospel-grace, I am also then an instrument of peace. Peace means reconciliation and reconciliation is Gospel fruit. Peace is shalom, and shalom is well-being. It is the way things ought to be. Oh, how we should love peace! We should strive for it (Eph. 4:3). Do not let conflict become the norm. As Christians, people who have been saved through the Gospel, peace should be the norm (Col. 3:15).
We need to stand firm in the Gospel in marriage, but we also need to advance it. Think of that Gospel footwear digging in with determination with each step, pushing forward, even when, especially when, it is hard. Advancing the Gospel of peace in marriage is hard work, it is easier to get frustrated, angry, irritable. Our redemptive mission is not only to our children, and those around us, but it is with our spouse. In advancing the Gospel of peace, I need to be actively pointing my spouse to Christ, His sufficiency, His love, His power. I don’t engage in hand to hand combat with my fellow soldier. I need to grab my fellow soldier by the hand and go to the throne of grace, seeking the God of peace. We face the enemy together.
Our marriages need the Gospel, every day. Don’t lose sight of the most basic truth in everyday married life: two sinners, saved by grace; two sinners in need of grace; two sinners standing firm in the Gospel for themselves and for each other. Learn to love each other through the Gospel, not the grid of the latest Victorian book on how to do marriage. Learn to be quick to apply the Gospel to each other. Learn to speak the Gospel of peace to your spouse, pray the Gospel of peace, cherish the Gospel of peace. Keep the Gospel shoes on your feet!