Continuing the Armor of God series, this week we’ll ‘buckle down’ and explore the belt of truth. “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…” (Ephesians 6:14).
Before unpacking the spiritual power of the belt, will you indulge me a minute? As I’ve thought about belts the past couple of days, I can’t get past something that drags me down: Sagging. For the love of Fruit of the Loom, WHY???????
I look at this picture, see the belts desperately trying to keep those pants afloat and think, “Oh, you poor things. Did your arms get so tired you couldn’t hitch yer britches another 10 inches to your waist?” Look, let’s set aside what I think the saggy, underwear-are-outerwear crowd communicates to the world. None of us can escape the fact that how we wear our clothes does communicate to the world.
Belting up in Paul’s World
In the time the apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians (AD 60-62), the belt of a Roman soldier was the main piece signifying he was set apart to his position.
In Rome, a man’s dress and his social cultural and political identity in Roman society were directly connected; the toga was both the prerogative and the iconic symbol of the Roman male citizen. What then, was the distinguishing dress of the Roman soldier? We know that in Apuleius’ time unarmoured soldiers usually wore a belted tunica, nailed sandals and a long, heavy cloak, ﬁxed on the right shoulder with a ﬁbula. Neither the tunica nor the cloak seem to have diﬀered much from average well-oﬀ civilian clothing. The truly distinguishing factor of the military dress were the sandals (caligae ) and the military belt.1
Wearing the belt specific to his position distinguished a Roman soldier from people around him who—otherwise—wore similar clothing. This got me thinking…
Belting up in Our World
How does the ‘belt of truth’ distinguish modern-day Christians? Do we wear it because it’s fashionable, functional or foundational?
- Fashionable: In our world, it seems increasingly unfashionable to be a Christian. The perception exists that Christians are intolerant (unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect persons of a different social group, especially members of a minority group).2 Tolerance is showing respect to those who differ; it does not, however, mean an acceptance of the values that create the differences. The best way we can walk toward loving unity in our world is by respecting all views while maintaining the values we hold. Too often, Christians—to be tolerant—wear a belt that is fashionable, but not one constructed of the material contained in God’s Word. Times change, but the truth of scripture doesn’t.
- Functional: For those who feel their belt is constructed of truth and not of the latest trend in cultural thinking, what purpose does the belt serve? Is it whipped off to ward off those who don’t subscribe to Christian beliefs? Is it used to beat others with the truth? Remember, the belt of truth should distinguish Christians from those around them. If we recall Jesus’ greatest commandment, we’ll know that truth should always offered in love (Ephesians 4:15).
- Foundational: By definition, foundational means “the basis or groundwork of anything”.3 When we believe that truth is contained in God’s Word, every area of our lives is affected. We’ll “stand firm” (Ephesians 6:14) against all the challenges of life because the foundation of what we choose is based on God’s ways. We’ll be loving and tolerant while “standing firm” on the values God’s Word contains.
Belting up in Your World
How is your belt? Hopefully yours isn’t sagging! I pray that we Christians are mindful how, like Roman soldiers, our belt [of truth] distinguishes us from others around us. Further, my prayer is that God’s foundational truth is so attractive in how we live that others want to ask, “Where did you get that belt?”
1Hoss, Stephanie. Wearing the cloak dressing the soldier in Roman times. Edited by Marie-Louise Nosch. Vol. 10. Ancient Textile Series. Oxford (GB): Oxbow Books, 2012. Accessed April 20, 2017. https://www.academia.edu/212354/The_Roman_Military_Belt. Chapter 4: The Roman Military Belt.
2“Intolerance.” Dictionary.com. Accessed April 21, 2017. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/intolerance?s=t.
3“Foundation.” Dictionary.com. Accessed April 21, 2017. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/foundational.