This week the women’s ministry at my church began a video series that accompanies Lysa TerKeurst’s new book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. I was intrigued by the title so I was anxious to view the first lesson, and it didn’t disappoint.
In the first session Lysa looks at the Old Testament story of Joshua and the wall of Jericho. In case you need a refresher, below is the awesome VeggieTales version, “Joshua and the Big Wall,” posted for your viewing pleasure. Because, you know, there’s nothing better than Monty Python-esque green peas armed with slushies to really bring the Bible to life:
What Lysa focuses on in the first lesson is a strange encounter between Joshua and a mysterious figure prior to Joshua’s arrival at Jericho. Joshua 5:13-15 shares their dialogue:
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 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown 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.
Although it is unclear just who this man is, one thing is clear: This is a holy encounter. Joshua is in the presence of God.
Given this truth, the man’s response to Joshua is so interesting. When Joshua asks, “Are you for us or for your enemies,” the man replies, “Neither.” In my ESV Bible the response is even more curt. He simply says, “No.”
As Lysa explains, this exchange reveals that Joshua was asking the wrong question. The question is not whether or not God was on Joshua’s side, but whether or not Joshua was on God’s.
I couldn’t help but notice the timeliness of this message. We watched the video the day after the election, when my Facebook wall was flooded with angry vents about which politician more closely represented Christian values. As the dust from the election settles, I’ll let you interpret this text’s application to American politics for yourself.
What I found to be even more convicting, however, is how this passage speaks into my personal life. More specifically, my personal relationships. Whenever I am in conflict with another person, I do my best to model Christ in the situation. BUT, I do so as if the locus of rightness is centered in me.
Let me explain. By modeling Christ in conflict, I am taking the high road, I am being the better person, I am doing what God would want me to do, I am being the more faithful Christian. It’s almost as if I am behaving Christianly so that God will be on my side. Or, to prove that God is already on my side.
But his very way of thinking is in conflict with who God is. To some extent, God is for all of us. That is why He sent His Son–to redeem the world and all that is in it. Which means that God doesn’t simply desire my vindication; He desires reconciliation and restoration. He desires the healing and wholeness of the person who wronged me. He wants the best for them just as much as He wants the best for me. So when I slip into thinking that God is somehow more on “my side” than someone else’s, I’ve missed the point altogether.
The goal of the Christian life is not to get God on my side. The goal is to get on His. And until I accept the reality that much of my life is still not surrendered to Him the way that it should be, I will continue to confuse the important distinction between “my side” and God’s.