As I have listened to claims of “God being on ‘our’ side” or of certain groups being "on the right side" from people of differing political perspectives, I was reminded of a mighty biblical personality who seemingly should have had no doubt about being on God’s side or even God being on his. The reality was not as simple as one might be inclined to think.
In the 5th chapter of the Bible book Joshua, the man for whom the book is named and mighty leader of Israel is preparing to lead the people of Israel to overtake the city of Jericho as directed by God. As he surveys the situation, he has a chilling encounter. Here is how that encounter is presented in the Biblical text:
13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “No,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
It is interesting that this Heavenly representative came to engage Joshua, but offered no assurance of favoritism or alliance. He only affirmed that God was present, sovereign and that Joshua needed to acknowledge God’s unique righteousness perspective which was His alone and not the product of human diplomacy. Like Joshua, we must weigh into situations with our best understanding of right and wrong but make adjustments when we've thought more of our position than we ought.
For those who walk with Jesus, we must seek God’s Word, walk in humility, pursuing righteousness and exercising restraint in claiming “God’s favor” when, in spite of our intentions, we may be standing within striking distance of receiving God’s judgment. As Abraham Lincoln said, “… my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.” That may mean rejecting a viewpoint or candidate within one’s own affiliation that does not represent what one is deeply convicted is right. It may even mean standing utterly alone when no viewpoint expressed adequately represents what one believes to be true.
Jesus warned that standing with a prophetic voice can even turn one’s hometown and kindred against you and standing on principle can be an express ticket to an early exit from this life. The Apostle Paul declared that those who follow Jesus are looking for a country that is not of this earth and can expect a challenging earthly journey as strangers in strange lands. As my own life progresses, and politics and public discourse become increasingly toxic, I often feel more alienated from the world around me than I did in years past. If the biblical writers are to be believed – and I believe them – being “someone else from somewhere else” is just the right passport for our perilous times.
Stay true to what is right friends, and don’t fear standing firm and standing alone when everywhere others are trying to persuade you to stand is unstable and broken ground. Dare to be different, when the labels that are available don’t fit you or your ideals. Do not compromise your convictions for a temporarily satisfying political victory. Blaze new trails. Seize the opportunities to lead that come your way. And, like the Captain of the Armies of the Lord, even when someone you admire more than their opponent, but with whom you have significant issues, asks if you’re on their side or their opponent’s side, stand your ground and resolutely say, “No.”