Captain America 3 will soon be with us, this time with Spider-man in action as well!

Cap's iconic shield flying through the air and amazingly returning to him is a sight that I never tire from seeing.

Yes, I'm a fan, and have been since my exposure to Marvel comics as a child of the 60s. 

But my real life exposure to working with a shield is somewhat different.

In 1981 I joined the Metropolitan Police Force. (Yes, back then it was called a force rather than a service.)

At the age of 19 I was walking the streets of Lewisham trying to keep law and order. 1981 was the year of the inner city riots, and as a result my basic training included shield training.

I learned how to hide behind a 5 foot 6 inch shield, interlocked with two others with a third in position above my head, huddled together with a unit of six officers.

4 shields, 6 officers, shuffling forward with projectiles raining down on us, trying to get close enough to arrest someone or to work with other units to control a crowd.

Depending on your politics and experience of the police that may sound exciting or scary.

My perspective has certainly changed over time.

But one thing my experience of being in the middle of a shield unit has given me is a perspective on something the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:

"Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." 

Paul wrote this when the Roman Empire was in charge.

Roman soldiers carried a type of shield that was designed to be used in concert with their fellow soldiers. It formed a wall, sometimes in defense, sometimes as an offensive tactic. Yes, they could be used individually, but there was always a call for them to be used together. This was called a Testudo formation

Here are a couple of things I learned from my experience of using a shield.

First, a shield worth having is heavy, especially when you're standing around waiting for something to happen. But a strange thing happens when it's time to lift it up and lock it in with the shields either side of you ready for action. The weight is that much easier to carry because you are focusing on what it's doing for you and for those around you. At times like that, the weight is secondary. And the more you use it, the easier it is to handle.

Second, situations that seem really scary are a lot more straightforward to deal with when you have a bunch of people with you that you trust and are trained to use their shields. For example, a deranged guy waving a samurai sword around an inner London housing estate is easier to deal with when you have a team with shields to work alongside you.

There's a direct application here of how to live a life of faith.

  1. The more you act in faith the more proficient you'll become.
  2. You don't need to stand alone. There's strength to be gained from standing alongside those who share the same faith you have in Christ.

So forget the image of Captain America standing alone with his frisbee shield. Instead, take up the Roman-style shield of faith and stand shoulder-to-shoulder together with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Together we make a formidable force against whatever gets thrown our way.