A Pattern Kept Straight
By Anthony Casperson
People who make their own cosplay amaze me. The ability to look at an image of a character and then bring that costume to life is a talent.
They have to figure out how to mold the material to their own form, while maintaining the pattern of the original. And if one piece doesn’t quite look right, or if they mess up one little area, it doesn’t matter how good other people say the cosplay is, that error will be noticed by a discerning eye. And be felt by the one in the costume.
While I can appreciate the artistry of cosplay, it’s not for me. Dressing up in costumes is not something I enjoy. And the one time in my life that I tried to make my own costume, it was a disaster.
It was for one of those “Harvest Festivals” at church when I was in elementary school that I decided to dress up in the armor of God. Mainly cardboard and duct tape. (You see my problem already, I’m sure.)
Rather quickly, I discovered that the breastplate wouldn’t hold still if I tried to bend or sit. I had to stand straight up or not wear that piece. I had to conform to it because it would not conform to me. That breastplate which represented righteousness wouldn’t give, no matter how much I wanted it to.
The concepts of following a preset pattern and a standard falling apart if not conformed to both find a place in the discussion of the second piece listed in Ephesians 6’s armor of God: the breastplate of righteousness.
Biblically speaking, righteousness is a standard, a pattern, the measuring rule by which one judges moral goodness. And this model given to us comes from God himself.
As a matter of fact, Paul wasn’t the first biblical author to speak of a breastplate of righteousness. Over six hundred years previous, the prophet Isaiah used the image in Isaiah 59:17. (Perhaps Paul had a scroll of Isaiah’s words with him in that prison when he wrote to the Ephesians.) Only this breastplate wasn’t worn by one of God’s people. No, it was God himself who wore his own righteousness as armor.
This reminds us of something important when it comes to spiritual warfare. The righteousness we clothe ourselves with isn’t our own. We don’t get to define its shape. And we don’t get to boast in our own deeds of goodness. It’s God’s definition, standard, and pattern that we must follow. And it’s only because of God’s power through us that we can even begin to conform to that righteousness.
When Moses stood before the Israelites who were readying to cross into the Promised Land, he repeated the Law of God to them. Among this second statement of the Law, he spoke of how the people could clothe themselves in righteousness. In Deuteronomy 6:24-25, he tells them to obey all of the statutes, laws, and commands of God. Fear the Lord our God. The one who always wants the best for us. And it would be counted unto the people as righteousness.
Paul gives us the New Testament version of these words about righteousness in the letter to the Philippians—which was written in the same cell as Ephesians. In Philippians 3:8-10, the Apostle tells us that it is of utmost importance for us to know Christ. To be so thoroughly familiar with him and his ways that we could lose everything else and still feel fulfilled. Because we see anything other than Jesus as so much lesser that it looks like a dung heap to us.
Through that intimacy with Jesus we’ll have a righteousness that comes not through a strict adherence to the Law, but through faith in him. Our relationship with Jesus causes us to act in faith, rather than fear of the Law’s conviction. The power of his resurrection leads us to share in his suffering for righteousness. Even if we should face death for it.
We have the pattern of what followers of Jesus should clothe themselves in. It’s Jesus. God himself, enfleshed in humanity. We’re to act in line with his holiness. We must conform to his standard. Because if we don’t, if we try to bend the standard to our own desires, then we find that our breastplate has been removed. There’s no righteousness to protect us in the battle. And when the chest armor falls, our most vital organs will be exposed.
Keeping the pattern in mind, and standing straight in that standard, is the only way to clothe ourselves in the protection of God. Any other measure will prove faulty. And will fall apart.