Whose side is God really on? Or is that the question we should even be asking? I’m Joel Fieri. This is “What You’ve Been Searching For.” Stay tuned.
Okay. Finally, we’re wrapping up our look at the divide within Christianity that was highlighted weeks ago. We did a review of “Christ Crucified,” the American gospel documentary highlighting the differences between progressive Christianity: people like [inaudible 00:00:35], Richard Rohr, Oprah Winfrey even, and the heavy hitters on the conservative, more traditional side: the John MacArthur, Voddie Baucham, and people like that. That began a series over the last couple of weeks, looking at how these differences kind of flesh out what the Bible has to say about them and how do we get it right? Well, I want to wrap it up and in my intro, I kind of hinted at the track I’m going to take with this.
Can we reconcile this difference? Can we bridge this gap, or is this divide unbridgeable? Because as we talked about the progressive side, in my view, and it came out in this documentary, tends to see the Bible, see God himself, and definitely see his word through the lens of what they can and can’t accept. Some of the opinions and justifications expressed, there was, “I just couldn’t accept a God who would have this kind of expectation of me,” or “I can’t accept this part of the word of God that has this to say about such and such, a social issue,” versus the conservative side that said, “Hey, this is what the Bible says. Whether we like it or not, this is what the Bible says, and if we believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, this is what God says.”
A lot of times this argument, this conflict comes out culturally. It comes out theologically. A lot of times, it comes out politically. And when it comes out politically or culturally, we tend to think people take the view that, “Well, God is on my side, if his political God is a Democrat, or God is a Republican.” Well, that’s not the right way to take him, first of all. And second of all, that’s not the case. Long ago in my youth, I was a Democrat. I’ve been a Republican for a long time. I’ve never heard anybody on either side, say, “God is a Democrat, or God is a Republican.” That just doesn’t happen. That’s kind of a straw man argument people put up, but that attitude may be there, but it’s not the right way to look at it.
I want to look at the other side of the coin, or sometimes I say “the edge of the coin,” what’s kind of in between on these issues. The question is not, “Is God on our side?” The question should be, and it seems obvious to me, “Are we, am I on God’s side, on whatever issue it is or whatever worldview it is?” And I think there’s a passage that I always look to that stands out to me. It’s a short passage from the Old Testament, which I have not unhitched from. And it happens in Joshua 5:13. I just want to read it real quickly.
Verses 13 through 15. “Now, when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a sword drawn 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 face down 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.
If you know the story, the next chapter, the commander of the Lord’s army told Joshua to take Jericho. And he said, “I’ve already given Jericho into your hands. This is how you take it.” Involve marching around seven days, and then seven times blowing horns, shouting. And the walls fell. Joshua and his army took Jericho. But it’s interesting … it’s always interesting, what goes, the context, what goes before this. Before this was talking about how the disobedient people of Israel, who had been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years because they were so disobedient to God, those men of military age had died off. Joshua’s army is their sons who were born in the wilderness, hadn’t been circumcised, so they were circumcised in obedience to God, and now they’re ready to take the land.
So it’s interesting. A couple of things stand out. Obviously, Joshua sees the angel of the Lord, the commander of the Lord’s army, standing there. And it says, “Whose side are you on? Are you on our side? Are you on their side?” And the angel or the messenger, whoever it is, says, “Neither. Do you think I’m at all interested in your sides? Are you on my side? I’m the commander of the armies of the Lord. I have a plan for you. Are you in or not?” Sometimes, I think God must weary of our petty little sides here. I don’t think he’s much interested in whether or not we can put him in our box of expectations of what we think God should be, or I don’t think he’s interested in what we think of his words, whether we can hit his word, whether we can fit it into our cultural context, or people will approve of it.
He’s asking us, “Are you on my side or not? Because I not on your side. That’s not even the question I ask.” Another part of this, which I never really saw before, or if I did see, I didn’t see the significance of it. But in Verse 15, he says, the commander of the Lord’s army replied to Joshua, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” I can only think of one other time in the Bible where somebody told someone to take off their sandals because it’s holy ground. And that’s Moses before the burning bush. Moses was talking to God. A lot of people have said, I’ve heard a lot of people say, that this commander of the Lord’s army is Jesus.
If it’s not Jesus, it’s God himself because the ground that he was standing on was holy. And it seems to me, the precedent of God’s setback with Moses, is if you’re standing in my presence, you better have your sandals off. So how’s that applied to us today? Well, I think we better take our sandals off because we’re standing on holy ground. When we talk about these issues between progressive and conservative, who’s right, should take this in the Bible seriously or not, God wants us to take what he says seriously. And it’s not a joke to him. We’re standing on holy ground here. So we can’t afford to play around with, “Well, did he really mean this or did he really mean that?” In the context of today’s society with all the things we’ve learned or all the things our society has told us, we really can’t take a stand on this or that issue.
We really should measure that against what is acceptable. Those parts of the Bible are really hard. We need to kind of distance ourselves from that. The stakes of that are far too high, folks. This is why we really need to get this right, and I really do think that this illustrates what the stakes are. The stakes are eternal. What we do now, on this earth, is more or less a rehearsal for eternity. So when we’re on this earth, we need to get it right because we are standing on holy ground. So I hope that explains why I think it’s very important to look at this cultural divide within Christianity, between the progressives and conservatives, and what … can we bridge the divide? Can we reach common ground? I don’t know. The stakes seemed to be a little too high to me to bridge the gap between someone who doesn’t think the most important thing is to follow the word of God and someone who doesn’t. I hope I’m wrong on that.
Maybe if we keep this conversation going down in the comments, someone can encourage me or come up with a better solution. As far as I can see, while the conservative, traditional side is far from perfect, they’re a little more in tune, I think, with what God is wanting us to do. They’re a little more in tune with the idea that they’re standing on holy ground and that the word of God is nothing to be trifled with or modified to our own expectations. Joshua was modifying what he saw to his situation, asking Jesus, “Are you on my side or their side?” That’s not even the question. Are we on God’s side or are we not? That’s pretty much all there is to it. So I hope that’s helpful. Again, tell me what you think in the comments, and stay tuned next week for “What You’ve Been Searching For.” We will tackle some more questions that you, the podcast listener, have been asking. I’m Joel Fieri. Thanks for listening.