Is it true that God Doesn’t Pick Sides When It Comes To His Kids? If you listen closely to Christian leaders, you hear some of them confidently explain how the Lord is behind their special endeavors. They point to their growing budget, their polished facilities, or their ministry metrics. These things are the tangible evidence of God’s blessing. Other times God’s favor is more mysterious and subjective. Leaders will cite answered prayers, quote isolated scriptures, or describe a dream or vision they downloaded from God.
If you sit down with the individuals who say these things, most of them will explain that they have a unique blueprint that the Lord has endorsed and commissioned. Confident that God is on their side, they determine who is worth partnering with and who is worth dismissing. Other ministries or groups that don’t align to the blueprint tend to get siloed and turned into some form of opposition.
In Joshua chapter 5 we witness the Lord demonstrating how He picks sides. Joshua is on the cusp of leading God’s people deeper into the Promised Land and attacking the city of Jericho. In verses 13 to 15 there is an interesting exchange. Joshua encountered a man with a drawn sword and asked him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” The man replied, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord.” Some theologians believe this commander was a physical manifestation of God, others believe he was a messenger from God. Either way, the message is the same.
One could conclude that this commander would have said he was obviously “for” Joshua and the Israelites. After all, the Lord delivered the Jews from Egypt, vowed to give them a Promised Land, and rid the space of its oppressive and brutal people. Joshua asked for instruction, and the man told him to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. This is reminiscent of the Lord conversing with Moses and the burning bush in Exodus. In similar ways both Joshua and Moses were being re-commissioned to God’s bigger plan.
Shark Tank Missions
If we aren’t careful, we mistakenly approach God as we would the investors on the popular TV show, Shark Tank. We excitedly unveil our plans, our mission, and our approach to unleash justice and peace on the planet. Convinced that we and our special endeavors will change the world for the kingdom, we hold our breath waiting to see what He’ll say. If our fundraising comes through, we find solid facilities, and as the ministry starts to increase its impact, we assume that the Lord has picked us. Like an investor on Shark Tank, He has uniquely selected us and our model. If this is true, our product is superior to everyone else around us. If we are endorsed and backed by the Creator of the universe then other people doing justice ministry become competitors, opposition, or, at the very best, pupils who could learn from our brand and expertise.
After all, if God is for us then it’s unlikely that He is also for them . . .
Returning to Joshua for a moment, we discover that God isn’t for Joshua—at least not in the way that Joshua was hoping. God demonstrates repeatedly in scripture that He is on one side only—His own. Back in Genesis 3:15 God promised to send a “seed” that would crush Satan and sin. It was here that the Lord rolled up His sleeves and got to work with His own agenda to redeem the world. From this launch pad the pages of the Bible are rife with Him recruiting men and women to execute His unique game plan to overthrow oppression, unleash justice, and manufacture shalom, all through the pronouncement of the good news of the gospel. From the beginning God has recruited His children from around the world to make a way for Jesus to exercise His dominion through grace, truth, justice, and peace. Joshua’s conquest of Canaan was just a small blip in His master plan of making that a reality.
From Abraham to Moses to Rahab to Ruth to David to Mary there was a single thread of kingdom contributors who weren’t chosen because of their unique blueprint for changing the world. Instead, they were brought on board with God’s blueprint to do it.
It is no small thing that Christ instructed us to pray daily that “God’s kingdom would come, and His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). This petition subjects and aligns our finite and limited plans to His master plan. Simultaneously, it manufactures anticipation in our hearts that we will witness His heavenly kingdom agenda of justice, hope, grace, and unity unleashed on earth as it is heaven.
The Body of Christ is becoming increasingly tribalized between “us” and “them.” Racially, socio-economically, denominationally, and politically we are seeking to find an in-group that God endorses via His power and presence. If we can find our “us” then we can partition ourselves from “them,” because God isn’t for them in the way He is for us.
But God entrusted His kingdom agenda to all of His children. Our one Father makes us all of us one family with a similar identity and job description. The mandate to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), to do justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8), and to care for the widow and the orphan (James 1:27) is His blueprint, not ours. Culturally and denominationally, we may produce a unique flavor of living this out, but we are all on the same team regardless of how we feel about it. Jesus was so passionate about our unity in carrying out His blueprint He sweated anxious tears of blood in the Garden (John 17:20–21).
But what about those believers who create disunity, oppression, or work against us and the kingdom? Perhaps we could replicate the actions of Paul who confronted his co-apostle Peter for showing favoritism to the Jews at the expense of the Gentile believers. Paul didn’t cancel his brother, bash him for his faulty ministry brand, or refuse to work with him. On the contrary, he challenged Peter’s actions because they were not congruous with “truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:14). In other words, Paul was seeking to realign his wayward brother with God’s master plan.
God has been infiltrating the world with hope since Genesis 3. He doesn’t pick sides with His kids. But He relentlessly pursues us, and He calls each of us to pursue our brothers and sisters to align ourselves with His agenda of invading the earth with His kingdom and will.
- May we all repent of ways that we have siloed ourselves from other believers due to believing that our plan is the master plan. If we have sinned against another brother or sister in this way, may we pursue reconciliation.
- Let’s pray for greater unity within God’s family. Let’s praise God and draw attention to where we see kingdom unity happening.
- Let’s pray daily that the Lord’s “kingdom will come, and His will be done” each day so that our hearts (and the hearts of the entire Body) will be aligned with God’s heart and purposes.