Nike: The Greek Goddess of Victory

In 490 B.C. King Darius of Persia invaded Greece and threatened the city of Athens. The Athenians sent their champion runner Pheidippides to Sparta to summon help. Pheidippides ran for two days and two nights the 140 miles to Sparta only to find that the Spartans were unwilling to respond until the moon was full. He ran back to Athens with the disappointing news.

The Persians had landed on the Greek coast and gone into camp on the plain of Marathon, about 25 miles away. Pheidippides joined the famous Ten Thousand Athenian warriors who charged down upon the Persians and defeated them. Pheidippides was asked to carry the news of the victory back to Athens. He staggered into the city and announced, “Rejoice, we conquer!” then collapsed and died. Pheidippides is immortalized in history as the first marathon runner. It may be why the athletic footwear company chose Nike as its name: Nike being the Greek goddess of victory.

Nike. Shoes of victory. Which reminds me of something from the New Testament….

St. Paul urges us: “Stand firm then … with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15)

Sometimes Bible commentators point out how strange it is that Paul should mention a gospel of peace right in the middle of a passage dealing with spiritual warfare and conflict and armor.

But it really isn’t all that strange.

The aim of our warfare is that people would accept the terms of peace that God holds out, namely, faith in Jesus. And the only reason there is any conflict at all is because the power of sin and the powers of Satan are dead set against making peace with God.

Look at Ephesians 2:13-18 to see Paul develop the gospel of peace:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility . . . and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off [Gentiles!] and peace to those who were near [Jews!]; for through him we have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

The good news of peace is that when Christ died and shed his blood for sin, two kinds of enmity were overcome. The enmity between God and repentant sinners was brought to an end. And the enmity between races and factions in Christ was brought to an end. So Christ became our peace. That is the gospel of peace.

We have heard it by the grace of God. We have believed it by the grace of God. And we have been saved through it by the grace of God. And now Paul says in Ephesians 6:15  that the readiness of this gospel of peace is to be put on like shoes as part of our spiritual armor. ” . . . and having shod your feet with the readiness of the gospel of peace.”

So let’s think for a few minutes about this readiness as part of the whole armor of God. Verses 11–12 say, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

The war we are in is not a war with flesh and blood but with supernatural evil powers.What amazes me about Paul’s words here is not what he affirms but what he denies. I’m not surprised to hear him say that we wrestle with evil angelic, demonic, supernatural powers. What surprises me is that he says (in v. 12) we do NOT wrestle with flesh and blood.

Christian brothers and sisters – the Nike ad has polarized our country. Before the ad, the issue of NFL players taking a knee polarized the country. Before NFL players took a knee, it was Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter polarizing the country.

And guess what – the enemy loves it when we’re polarized and Christian brothers and sisters attack one another on social media or post comments that could be hurtful to others who do not share the same viewpoint.

Colin Kaepernick is not the enemy. People who think that kneeling during the National Anthem is disrespectful are not the enemy. The leaders of Nike are not the enemy. The people burning their Nikes are not the enemy. All these are people. Flesh and blood. And flesh and blood is not what we wrestle with.

I recently participated in a Bible study group on racial reconciliation that was incredibly eye-opening. One African American man in the group commented to me that there are ideas and experiences. And that nobody ever changes their minds based on ideas. But people will change their minds based on their experiences.

The enemy wants us to focus on ideas. Ideas of what sacrifice means. Ideas of what respect means. Ideas of right and wrong. The enemy wants us to focus on ideas because ideas don’t enact change.

The change that we are supposed to bring to the world as gospel bearers is peace….reconciliation. Reconciliation only happens through relationships. And relationships only happen through experiences with people. Not ideas about them.

We need to stop posting our “ideas” on social media (preaching to the choir here, by the way!). Whatever our viewpoint is, it doesn’t matter. The point is – there are people who are at odds with each other and we are called to be the instruments of reconciliation. It’s time we start listening, understanding, reaching out to others who are different, and forming experiences through our relationships that change our minds on things and help us better understand one another so that we can be UNIFIED in our love and desire to reconcile others to Jesus. Literally…our mission is reconciliation.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…” 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

Start thinking of someone you know you disagree with on this or any other polarizing issue and try to listen to their viewpoint over a meal or coffee one day. Try to meet with someone of a different race and listen to their thoughts on current events. Above all, seek to understand before being understood.

If you would love some FREE podcasts that are very thought-provoking about the church’s role in racial reconciliation (the underlying issue that caused Colin Kaepernick to take a knee), please check here:

https://www.namb.net/undivided/

Nike has made headlines this week and it remains to be seen whether the new marketing strategy helps the company live up to its namesake of Victory. But regardless of what happens to Nike, there is a bigger Victory we should be focused on – and that is the Victory over the enemy. Let us put on the full armor of God including the shoes of the peace so that we can stand victorious. Since Jesus, the Divine Warrior (Isaiah 59:15-19), fights for us – let us make sure we make use of His armor readily available to us:

“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall…” – Ephesians 2:14

P.S. – There is a GREAT Bible study by Priscilla Shirer called “the Armor of God” that I HIGHLY recommend. Priscilla Schirer has also developed an older kids “Armor of God” study and a younger kids “Armor of God” study that goes hand in hand with the adult version. My oldest son is working through the older kids version with a neighborhood friend and it has been excellent. Additionally, Schirer has written a great series called “The Prince Warriors” – you can find more here: https://theprincewarriors.com

P.S. – Some of this post was drawn from “The Armor of God: The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace” by Ted Schroder and some of it was drawn from “Ready to Move with the Gospel of Peace” by John Piper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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