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.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began exploring in depth the various pieces of God’s armor in Ephesians 6:14-17. We saw that if we’re going to fight the spiritual battle with God’s power we need to buckle up the belt of truth. Today we move to the next piece of the divine armor: “the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14).
The “breastplate of righteousness” is mentioned explicitly in Isaiah 59:17 as something the Lord put on in response to the lack of truth and justice among the people of Israel. God “put on righteousness as a breastplate” in order to bring judgment and justice to his people. The result would be God being revered throughout the world and his own people repenting of their sins (Isaiah 59:19-20).
As Christians, we often speak of Christ’s righteousness being applied to us so that we might be justified before God. Though our donning the breastplate of righteousness depends on our having received God’s grace through Christ, it’s unlikely that the language of Ephesians 6 refers to Christ’s righteousness justifying us. Rather, the breastplate of righteousness is living rightly, being in right relationship with God and people. It is righteousness in individual relationships and justice in social systems and structures.
How do we put on the breastplate of righteousness? Relying fully on God’s grace in Christ, we commit to being in right relationships with all others. Where there is wrong, we seek what is right. If we have hurt another, we repent and ask for forgiveness. If someone has wronged us, we offer forgiveness and seek reconciliation.
Moreover, with equal reliance on God’s grace in Christ, we seek justice in the world around us. We heed the words of Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
For many of us, the workplace is a significant context for putting on the breastplate of righteousness. Here we must be committed to building healthy relationships. Where we have opportunity or authority, we must work to make sure all people entrusted to our care are treated justly. We strive so that our own behavior and that of our organization reflect God’s righteousness and justice. The same grace that made us right in Christ we offer to others in word and deed.
Something to Think About:
When you hear the word “righteousness,” what comes to mind? Can you think of others ways to talk about what the Bible describes as righteousness?
Would you say that your relationships at home, at work, and in your community are mostly “right”? Can you think of relationships that need help? What would it mean for you to put on the breastplate of righteousness in those relationships?
In what ways do you seek God’s justice for others?
Something to Do:
Talk with your small group or a Christian friend about what it means, practically speaking, for you to put on the “breastplate of righteousness.”
Gracious God, you alone are truly and fully righteous. You alone are completely just and justifying. You set for us the standard of righteousness. And, through Jesus Christ, you declare that we are righteous before you, not guilty because of your grace through Christ.
Lord, please help me to live in response to your grace by nurturing right relationships with all of the people in my life. May I seek to make things right with people at work and at home, with my neighbors and the folks downtown.
May I also seek your justice for others, especially those who are weak, oppressed, and excluded. Where I have authority, may I be committed to justice for those entrusted to my care.
All praise be to you, righteous God! Amen.