I’m sure you’ve had an experience similar to this – A group of friends gathers for some sandlot baseball or some other team game. With some effort, the group is divided into two teams. In an instant, friends become rivals, sides are created, and each team begins to taunt the other. This spills over to the spectators which ask each other, “whose side are you on?” or “who do you think is going to win?” This basic human experience of choosing sides is not only seen at the ball diamond but also in homes, school campuses, workplaces, gathering holes, churches, and boardrooms. Sides are formed and the battle is joined.
There is an exchange in scripture that happens after the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the promised land and before the defeat of Jericho. The battle was coming. Joshua had his orders from God. His first obstacle, his first test, was the stronghold of Jericho. Scripture reports, “Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” Whose side are you on? Are you friend or foe? Common and necessary questions in warfare. Joshua needed to know if this warrior was for them or against them. The answer to this line in the sand will determine Joshua’s next move. Will Joshua embrace him as a friend or fight him as an enemy?
So, how did this sword wielding warrior answer Joshua? He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” Neither! he said. Oops, now what. Instead of choosing a side the warrior declared a whole other side, that of God’s. Now here is where it gets tricky and we need to watch our footing. Lots of people claim that God is on their side. Both sides of the trenches of WWI claimed that God was on their side. Both sides were predominantly Christian. So, whose side was God on? The startling answer is neither, God is on no one’s side but His own.
You see, we are conditioned and encouraged to ask ourselves – who is on my side. Who is like me? Who will fight by my side? Who shares my views? Instead, we need to ask ourselves, am I on the Lord’s side? Consider Joshua’s response, “And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.” (Joshua 5:13–15, NASB95) The question of side no longer mattered to Joshua. His only concern was being obedient to God’s direction which is demonstrated by Joshua removing his sandals at the warrior’s command. Looking at what follows we see both success and failure at this lesson. Success as Joshua obeyed God’s unorthodox battle plan for Jericho. Failure as they move against AI on their own and suffer defeat.
There are many opportunities in today’s landscape to choose sides and join in the battle. Not only the physical struggles we see raging around the world but also those of society, culture, and politics. Not only in the large scale of global politics but also in the relationships of the home and everything in between. In all of these we, as Christ-followers, must be careful to make sure that we are on the Lord’s side and following His lead instead of our own likes, preferences, presumptions, and opinions. Should I make this plainer? God doesn’t care if you’re a Cub fan or Cardinal fan. He doesn’t care if you are a Republican, Democrat, or anything else. God could care less if you consider yourself liberal or conservative. God doesn’t care if you are Catholic or Protestant. Did I gore enough sacred cows? God doesn’t care about our human divisions and our desire to have Him on our side. God’s concern is that we are on His side, that we, with all humility, worship, and prayer, are following His lead. Not because God needs us on His side, but because we need to be on God’s side. After all, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, NASB95) Instead of worrying about sides, we need to follow Joshua’s example of falling to our knees in worship and prayer; listening to and obeying God.