Once when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?” He replied, “Neither; but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
— Joshua 5:13-14 (NRSV)
Favourites are not a game that our holy God could play, and this emissary who stands as the commander of the army of the Lord is not interested in either side of the fight. Joshua quickly realises the ignorant folly of his initial impression; the prophet of God is standing on holy ground (verse 15).
And so do we. We stand on holy ground, as we consider ourselves saved to the Lord for his keeping and his using. If we truly consider ourselves saved we will not be sides to an equation, but we will see, instead, that we are standing on holy ground. We stand before God, even as the Holy Spirit is in us.
The point to all of this is not one side or the other; the point is the recognition that we are standing on holy ground – that we are visible before our holy Lord. And if we show any partiality – when we have vowed not to by the urgency of our initial repentance – we have blasphemed the Lord.
Partiality is the test and impartiality is to be our only response, if we are standing obediently on holy ground.
What are the reasons for our partiality; of our taking sides?
We are coveting what is not ours. We are taking from the Lord. We are executing judgment and assigning blame. We are either abusing our powers or we are proving disobedient to the powers that be. We may both be wrong. If one is wrong then chances are it is the other, also, that is at least partially wrong. One side cannot be wholly wrong, the other white as snow.
It is very difficult in conflicts for either side to honour the glory of God, unless both sides can repent and reconcile.
Comprehending the impartiality of God, then, is a whistle charge for the Christian in the midst of his or her conflict. Our assignment is to honour God by fleeing from partiality. It is to understand the holy nature of the ground we stand on and to commit so far to integrity that we pour contempt on our own pride, praying others will do the same thing, though we cannot afford the expectation they will.
Taking sides to a dispute puts at jeopardy the holy ground we otherwise stand on. If one is wrong, usually both are wrong. God invites us into the cherished pasture of reconciliation by repentance, where parties can be restored.
There are three truths in a conflict: two perceptions of truth which are subjective, and one objective truth: God’s reality. Both will need to repent.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.