Now concerning the times and seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and safety,” the sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
People buy décor items that say “Faith Hope Love” to hang up in their homes, functioning essentially as meaningless platitudes. Ironically, they likely don’t have a life of faith, hope, and love. They purchase them probably thinking they are words of living peacefully with others with an air of pacifism. Yet for Paul, these are things we equip like soldiers who equip armour as they go into battle. As Rev. Dr. Edmund A. Steimle wrote (1907-1988), Paul “draws his image from the battlefield: ‘Let us put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.’ For faith and love are not passive but active; they belong to those who are awake, not to those who sleep their lives away. And hope always looks to the future expectantly, not dreading to face it, as a man lying in bed in the morning” (quoted in Schumacher, 39-40).
As a breastplate, faith and love equip us with the fortitude to go out and face our spiritual battle. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:12-13). The breastplate enables us to stand firm in battle, taking many blows, and for us this is faith and love. And faith and love are active things, not passive things waiting for things to happen to them. Therefore, we are not afraid to speak of our faith in the world, and we are not afraid to do so in love. Faith must always be spoken in love. If it is spoken in wrath, rudeness, and cruelty, we slaughter innocent casualties in the war instead of saving them from the present darkness.
And as a helmet we wear the hope of salvation. The helmet protects the most vital organ of the human body. Therefore, the hope of our salvation is our most vital protection in the world. The people of the world might launch their thoughtless invectives against us to burden our conscience, but our helmets can take the beatings. We know know the war is already won through Jesus Christ; therefore, we keep our helmets on and keep pushing through the battle because victory lies just over the horizon. If ever we remove this hope of our salvation, we risk a fatal blow and the death of our faith and love.
Schumacher, Frederick J., and Dorothy A. Zelenko. For All the Saints: A Prayer Book For and By the Church. Volume I, Year 1: Advent to the Day of Pentecost. Delhi, NY: The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 2003.