Whose side are we on?
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?”Recently I have thinking about this passage. In this passage, Joshua asked a very interesting question to the man who was identified later as the commander of the army of the Lord, "which side was he on?" You see, when you are asking someone if he is for you or for your enemies, the underlying assumption is that the person either centered around you or around your enemies. Either you or your enemies becomes the center of focus. In the context of this passage, it was akin to asking God which side He is on, because God could either be at your side or your enemies' side.
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. - Joshua 5:13-15
When we think about it, isn't this the case we see in real life most of the time? To those who watch a lot of HK drama, we sometime see that the polices will worship Mr Guan Yu, the supposedly brave warrior from the era of the Three Kingdoms. At the same time, gangsters worship this same deity as well. Both sides worship him for different reasons but I once heard a joke that asked the question, which side will Mr Guan bless? Likewise, you and your enemies may believe in God, the same God who sent Jesus Christ down to earth to die for both you and your enemies. Then if you pray to the same God, which side will He bless? It is like the football match where there are members in each team committing the outcome of the match (i.e. victory for their own team) into God's hand. Then one begins to ask how God will answer the prayer.
But the Scripture reveals that God refuses to play into our game but instead reverses the situation. The man replied that he belonged to neither side but God's side. The question I believe then is whether we are on God's side or not. And that is not up to us to decide. Joshua certainly cannot claim that just because he is from the nation of Israel and hence God is at his side. Neither could Jericho. God instead wants us to be on His side at His own term. This is what we need to take note of especially when we are doing ministry in God's kingdom. Today, there are simply many ministries and churches doing a lot of work for God's Kingdom. In the course of my work, I have seen some ministries expressing so much pride in what they do that they want to subsume any collaborators under their model of ministry, which is really implicitly saying that "my model is the best and you should come over to my side." But can we really work together at the same side of God?
I believe so. Just over the past one year, I was working with a group of student ministries which came together to organise a huge forum involving Ravi Zacharias. From the collaboration, I saw how God brought everyone in the team, who represents their own respective ministries, and aligned their hearts towards Him. The group was able to work incredibly well among themselves to minister to the students in Singapore and we are seeing a model of ministry where there is partnership and collaboration, with the assumption that they are on God's side, not God is on their side. I tend to see it as God drawing a line and asking each one of us whether we are crossing over the line to His side or not. And this is what happened in this example, where the people cross over to God's side.
Even within the church, are we on God's side? I have seen quarrels in church ministries which ruin working relationships between brothers and sisters. I have seen people having so much of an extreme burden for certain ministry that they are willing to go against the church. Some of these circumstances have their own reasons and contexts behind them, but I sometimes wonder why can't we work on the basis that we are on God's side? There are of course a lot of explanations but we shall leave this to another day and explore this further.