We are in incredibly challenging times. Our nation is divided. God’s Church is divided. We have failed to be faithful to the teachings of Christ. There are great injustices and inequities in our land. Violence is ongoing with threats of more coming. The COVID-19 pandemic continues with worldwide deaths passing 1 million and more than 200,000 lives lost in our nation. The wildfires rage in the west and hurricanes have battered states on the Gulf of Mexico. We have bitter division in our politics as the election draws near. It seems the only thing both parties agree upon is that the apocalypse will happen if the other party is elected.
In the midst of this, there is no shortage of voices who claim to have the answers, they quickly tell us which ones God favors and which side to be on. Dig deeper, don’t let others do your thinking for you. It is often more complex than some people make it out to be. In these times, we would do well to remember this story from the Bible.
“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?’ ‘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?’ 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
A friend told me this was the Biblical story that inspired President Abraham Lincoln’s famous response to the question about whether God was on his side during the Civil War . . . “Sir, 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.” Lincoln was very familiar with the Bible and sought to lead with God’s truth and wisdom. There’s a very insightful article with wisdom for today written by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik on this topic, you can read it HERE.
In our nation we have Christian leaders calling for violence or failing to denounce it.They misrepresent God’s nature and tragically fail to understand how God’s Kingdom comes. I do not want to be overly dramatic, but I have been thinking of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. At the time Rwanda was one of the most “Christian” nations in Africa. However, because of centuries old divisions, injustices and strife, the tribal identities of Hutu and Tutsi carried more weight than their identities as followers of Jesus. In less than four months between half a million and a million were murdered in Rwanda.
Again, I don’t want to be an alarmist. I am praying for peace and justice as integral parts of God’s Kingdom to be established here and now on earth as they are in heaven. In the U.S.A. we love stories of “good violence” overcoming “bad violence.” From John Wayne and Clint Eastwood to James Bond and Marvel movies, we love it when the “good guy” crushes and destroys the bad guy. There is a time for this. World War II is a clear example. However, Jesus is radically different. Jesus overcomes evil not with force and violence, but with sacrificial love, laying down his life.
Friends, let’s be sure no matter what happens in these next few months that we seek to line up with Jesus on all things – being peacemakers, ministers of reconciliation, salt and light! And it’s a good idea every once in a while to take off our shoes and socks and remember it all belongs to Him. We’re on God’s ground, holy ground!