I grew up around weapons—guns and swords. My brother and I were raised to respect them. I remember being taught over and over again that if you’re going to pick up a weapon, you’d better hold it carefully—and be aware of what it can do, so you can use it well.

The Sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—is the one of the greatest offensive weapons in this struggle against the rulers, authorities, principalities, and powers of darkness in the spiritual realms. If we do not take up this sword, we’re well-armored but ineffective moving targets. In a spiritual battle, it’s not enough to be outfitted; we must be equipped and willing to go on the offensive.

The sword most often used by the Roman soldier was the gladius, and it was a havoc-wreaking weapon with the ability to pierce even the strongest enemy armor. In the same way, the Sword that belongs to The Spirit—God, His very Word given to us—is a powerful weapon in the spiritual realm. It allows us to separate good from evil by the measured balance of God’s razor-edged standard. It divides to the very marrow of the bones, to the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

It is also a weapon that is used in the mortal realm, and that’s one of the reasons it’s crucial that we respect it and hold it carefully. Many terrible things have been done in the name of God by people who thought they were wielding this sword accurately—but it has been a deep cut that has bled on the world itself, and it has even pierced the very Body of Christ. This sword is not to be wielded with a riled and reckless hand against Christ’s Body or against other people; it must be understood and respected so that it’s not brandished amiss.

We are God’s soldiers, fighting in His army, and we have a duty to discern the truth through His Word and then act accordingly. The Sword of the Spirit is a weapon alive and powerful, capable of defense and attack; it is always sharp, always balanced, always battle-ready. And we must learn to draw it and put it to use in a way that honors the one who bestowed it on us.

When we have all the pieces of this armor put together—when our minds and soft spots are protected, our feet strong, our sword and shield in hand, and it’s all held together by the truth of God and of Christ and ourselves, and what we are fighting for—we have finally done the putting on. We have picked up the sword. We have entered the fight.

And this is what God has called us to do. We must stand for Him. We must fight in His name. And we must do it in a way that honors and glorifies our Great Father.

So lash on the truth. Strap on the righteousness. Plant your feet. Raise your shield. Fasten your helmet. Ready your sword.