Rex_Minnesota_Twins_at_New_York_Yank_9111987AH“You’ve gotta squish the bug.”

Now, I played a little baseball growing up and no one had ever given me this little nugget of advice about how to hit well. Now here I was, my son getting his first Little League exposure and this coach is telling him to do what, exactly? Basically, he was trying to get my son to push off and pivot on his back foot to get more power in his swing. He likened it to “squishing a bug” with his back foot.

You see, one of the keys to good hitting is a good stance. I’ve found this to be true for any sport I’ve ever played, really – football, baseball, basketball, it doesn’t really matter. If you don’t have a good stance, you are going to either (1) get knocked over or (2) you aren’t going to be ready when the time comes to react.

One of the key phrases/commands of Ephesians 6:10-20 is a call to “stand firm.” In other words, believers are encouraged to have the right stance. John Chrysostom was an important Early Church Father who served as the Archbishop of Constantinople in the late 4th Century. He was nicknamed “golden tongue” for his impressive oratory skills as a preacher. Taking his knowledge of the Roman military and legionary ways, he wrote this in one of his homilies on this passage from Ephesians.

The very first feature of tactics is, to know how to stand well, and many things will depend on that . . . Doubtless then he [Paul] does not mean merely any way of standing, but a correct way, and as many as have had experience in wars know how to stand. For if in the case of boxers and wrestlers, the trainer recommends this before anything else, namely, to stand firm, much more will it be the first thing in warfare, and military matters.

How, then, are we to stand? Well, in a nutshell – firm, with conviction, on the rock that is Christ. As the letter to the Ephesians states, there is a battle raging. It is not a human battle with fleshly weapons of war, however. Rather, this is a spiritual battle. As we said yesterday, this is a battle against the authorities, rulers, and powers of evil in this present age. In the onslaught of voices and parties, each trying to push and pull us to adopt and support their point of view, one might be forgiven for being confused about this idea of standing firm. Too many times we are so wedded to our individual opinions, perspectives, or allegiances, that we confuse conviction with plain ole’ fashioned stubbornness. As one commentator put it:

There is difference between being stubborn and standing firm. Paul is not asking us to be stubborn, wedded to an opinion, rooted in prejudice, or closed-minded . . . A stubborn person will not listen to ideas that differ from his or her own. A stubborn person rejects alternatives out of hand and refuses, regardless of the situation, to chance one’s position. Stubbornness is not self-or-other discerning. It is not informed, and it does not grow. It is enshrined in a closed circle of certainty and becomes fearful, boisterous, and one-dimensional. The stubborn heart and mind are impervious to reason and may constitute one way to hide insecurity.

Standing firm is different. Standing firm means that one is willing to debate, listen, and consider alternatives in order to reach a beneficial goal, while at the same time not sacrificing their basic principles. . . Paul is not asking us to get stuck on one strategy, idea, or position. He has in mind a larger goal, a bigger picture of God’s wide mercies. He is not counseling stubbornness, tunnel vision, or a siege mentality. (Archie Smith, Jr.)

“Squishing the bug” might be one way to generate more power in a swing, but the coach forgot the next important rule in teaching my son: when you hit the ball, you have to run. In that first game, when the ball left his little bat in a hurry, my son stood there, admiring his handiwork. He had squished the bug and it was going to stay there, smashed beneath his tiny foot. He didn’t yet understand that the “squished bug” isn’t the ultimate goal, but a means to get to the goal.

The same is true for the believers. We are meant to continue moving forward. The church will find itself stuck, when “standing firm” is exchanged for “stubbornness” and a refusal to change or adapt. Yes, let us stand strong. Let our convictions be deep. Let us have discernment and be willing to resist the forces of evil in the world. Let us not, however, be wed to the method, ideas, strategy, or position. Instead, let us be wed to the Christ who calls us forward to embrace the future with confidence and hope.