(This is an article I wrote for a youth magazine recently and wanted to share it with you all).
Shopping for the right shoes has always been a daunting feat for me. It just seems to take much longer for me to find shoes that fit just right. One thing I know for sure is that in the part of the world I live in, shoes are necessary for all areas of life and so I continue to brave the stores in search of good shoes. On these shopping excursions, I will sometimes remember that my grandparents were shoemakers and my grandmother had the ability to create shoes that fit, “like a glove!” as my mum would say. The clients would provide their ideas for their shoe and my grandmother would skilfully measure their feet and produce shoes that were beautifully crafted. A famous saying goes “Good shoes take you good places” (Seo Min Hyun). If you doubt that, try hiking up a difficult, rocky mountain to see a beautiful sunset in flip-flops. You will quickly realise that the shoe that is appropriate for the terrain will not only get you up the mountain to see the beautiful sunset, but back down it as well, in comfort and free of injuries.
When the apostle Paul was writing to the Ephesians his letter of encouragement and fatherly admonition, he included some timely advice on how to combat the ‘rulers of the darkness of this world’ and against ‘powers, principalities and spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12) Not only that, but he taught them, in a very practical way, how they should actually fight and live to tell the victory tale! As the apostle spoke of putting on all the armour, he mentioned that the feet should be “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). What does it mean to have your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace? How does this look in a practical way?
A Roman soldier’s shoe
The importance of a good shoe can be illustrated quite well by the marching boot worn by Roman soldiers beginning in the early 1st century. The boot was made from leather and was made to withstand long marches and harsh terrain. The bottom of the shoe had nails hammered into it, resembling a soccer boot and these were effective for crossing rough terrain and even for trampling on enemies should they fall in battle (Nacht, 1915). As effective as the boots were, there were some problems that would emerge quickly in certain settings. For one, the boots were deadly on smooth surfaces which is why the Romans paved their roads with gravel. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote an account that illustrates how dangerous it could be to wear footwear that was not appropriate for the place. During the Roman siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, Josephus wrote of a Roman centurion called Julianus who had jumped in to help his soldiers strengthen their defence against the Jewish rebels. He managed to push the rebels to the inner court of the temple, “and as he ran across the pavement he slipped and fell flat on his back”. The other soldiers, too scared to run back to his aid left the centurion to fight for his life until, surrounded by Jewish rebels, he was ultimately defeated (Nacht, 1915). To think that a good pair of shoes, appropriate for the time and place could have made the difference between life and death for the poor centurion.
What is the gospel of peace?
The battle that wars on requires soldiers who are prepared for every and any occasion. Considering that our shoes are to be made from the gospel of peace let us look at what the gospel of peace is. Matthew 4:23, tells us that ‘Jesus went about all galilee teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom’. He healed the sick and all sorts of diseases. When we read the first chapter and verse of Mark we find the definition of the gospel as being that “of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. As the apostle Paul reflected on his life he spoke of the one thing that had fuelled his passion and sole purpose in life “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God”. (Acts 20:24) The gospel, or “good news” was none other than the victory story of how Jesus had overcome the power of the Devil through his death on the cross, only to rise again and give us the victory through his follower.
Why is it called the gospel of peace?
Isaiah is an amazing book full of wonderful illustrations especially about the way Jesus would come to this earth the first time. You can read of the rejected Redeemer in Isaiah 53 and the birth of the Son of God in Isaiah 9:6-7. Jesus would be Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Through him, peace and a new kingdom would be established which would be founded on God’s love and never be removed. As many prophets preached, ‘the kingdom of God is at hand’ before him, Jesus brought it to live within every single one of us if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. He is the faithful Father waiting for his long-lost son or daughter to return.
The son gets new shoes!
Finally, the long-lost son had come home. How eagerly the Father had waited, every day checking the roads because maybe, just maybe, the son had found his way back. As soon as the son came into sight, the Father lost no time and soon Father and son were reunited in the biggest bear hug. What the son was now wearing looked very different to the way the son had been dressed the day he left. The Father immediately sent for proper clothing… and shoes. It is really interesting to see how the Father supplied every single item of clothing. When we come to God, whether it be after a long stint away like the son or whether we have been the other son and have remained close, God will provide a completely new wardrobe. It is just his way of showing us his priceless gift and making us new, loved, cared for, and accepted. The fact that in Luke we see the son putting on new shoes is significant because of what those shoes represent. What was the purpose of the new shoes you might ask? Well, what was the purpose of Jesus coming to this earth? Luke 1:79 says that Jesus came, “To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace”. This makes sense given that our feet must have on the ‘gospel of peace’. Have you ever searched for peace? Do you have peace? When I was growing up, I didn’t really understand what peace was. Honestly, it sounded boring, but I had misunderstood peace entirely. Where do we find true peace? After reading about the importance of footwear from the Roman armies’ example, we can appreciate the protection that the best ‘spiritual’ footwear can afford. Jesus gives us the answer to obtaining these amazing shoes in John 14:27, Jesus says “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”.
Finding Jesus and accepting him brings us true peace. The kind of peace that the world offers, but is unable to give. It is the kind of peace that pushes fear away and invites love and courage in. The kind of peace that brings assurance of Jesus’ love and acceptance in the heavenly family. It will not only change our lives, but the peace of God cannot help but spill over to our family, friends and neighbours alike.
This is why the verse in Isaiah talks about how beautiful feet can be when they are on the mission of the gospel of peace. Romans 10:14-15 says “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”
Being the bearer of good news is a natural result of our connection with Jesus because as we look to Him, we reflect Him to others. This is how we meet the devil in combat, in shoes that are so full of the ‘good news’ of Jesus that we will be able“ to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy” and remain unscathed (Luke 10:19-20). The story of the Christian’s armour may sound like a children’s story, but it is simple so that we may remember the power it contains and the practical tips to fight our daily battles. Let us make sure that we wear the footwear of the gospel of peace on our feet every day, knowing that those shoes will carry us far. Even to the gates of God’s kingdom!
By Daniela Balarezo
Nacht, J. (1915). The Symbolism of the Shoe with Special Reference to Jewish Sources. The Jewish Quarterly Review, 6(1), new series, 1-22. doi:10.2307/1451461
Featured Image by c1n3ma