Whose side are you on?
Our country has become so completely partisan that it seems nothing positive will ever get accomplished. The recent discussions about the fiscal cliff and the difficulty that our elected congress has had in getting it resolved is just one in a long line of examples of our divisiveness and separation one from another. Whether it is Republican vs. Democrat, conservative vs. liberal, black vs. white, haves vs. have nots, or simply “tom(aye)to” vs. “tom(ah)to” we tend to find more and more ridiculous ways of compartmentalizing and dividing ourselves. And so we need to know: Whose side are you on? Are you with me… or are you against me…
It reminds me so much of one of the neatest stories in the Old Testament. It is found in Joshua chapter 5. Joshua had just taken over leadership from the recently deceased Moses and crossed the Jordan River. The nation of Israel was on the brink of war. Every king in Canaan was on guard, fearful of this new nation whose God, Yahweh, had dried up the Jordan river while it was at flood stage so they could cross over and take possession of their land. Tensions were obviously high.
One morning as Joshua was walking along the bank of the Jordan, he sees a man. The man is standing in Joshua’s path and he is carrying a drawn sword. What would you think? I would probably think the same thing Joshua did and probably ask the same question: “Are you for us; or for our enemies?” When things are on the brink, it is an understandable question. Which side are you on? Friend or Foe? Ally or Enemy?
But the man responded with a very surprising answer. When asked “Are you for us; or for our enemies,” his answer was “No”. It wasn’t a yes-no question. It was an either-or question. Joshua wanted the man to pick sides. Joshua had to be reminded, however, that sometimes it is not about “my side” or “your side” but about “God’s side”. The man went on to say that he was the commander of the Yahweh’s army and that he had come. In other words, it’s not whether or not I am on your side, Joshua, it is whether or not you are on my side. I am the commander, not you. Joshua immediately fell at his feet and worshipped him.
Most scholars agree that this man was a pre-incarnate Jesus and that, like Moses, Joshua was speaking directly to God. Joshua may have been given the mantle of leadership over God’s people, but it was God who was in charge, not Joshua. Joshua may have viewed the situation as Us vs. Them; but in reality the situation has always been about those who stood with God and those who stood against God.
This story is a great reminder to all of us that our petty differences and our partisan thinking is contrary to God’s design – especially for those who claim to be believers in God and followers of Jesus. We are part of one body of Christ (Rom 12:5, 1 Cor 12:12). In Christ, there is neither black nor white, slave nor free, male or female, republican, democrat, or any other division (Gal 3:28). In fact, we are all supposed to be of the same spirit, having the same mind and striving for the same end-game – the advancement of the kingdom of God (Phil 1:27).
Why do we insist on such divisions? Why must we create teams that separate us? The answer lies at the very heart of the human condition... our sinfulness. We all were created for the purpose of relationship to belong to and relate to God. However, although our sin has separated us from God, we still have that longing within us to belong to something greater than ourselves. And so we create great causes to belong to. We use such grand-sounding terms as patriotism and the greater good. We find something to rally behind so that we can be a part of something important and can relate to others who are like-minded to us. All the while, though, the most important thing we could be a part of - the thing we were created to be a part of - escapes our attention altogether.
At the end of the day, it is not about your side or my side. At the end of the day, it only matters whether we are on God’s side. It only matters whether or not we are one with His Spirit, working to accomplish His purposes, and striving to advance His kingdom. In Christ, we can relate to and be family with those who might otherwise be completely opposite to us. In Christ, we can come together in unison with people all over the world and work side-by-side to accomplish one purpose - the purpose of spreading the gospel. All we have to do is remember whose side we are on.
So here’s the question we all need to answer for ourselves…
Whose side are you on?
Comments are welcome and encouraged.
Blog copyright © 2012 Joel J. Dison