Choosing Sides

Posted by in Bible & Theology

It is human nature to choose sides. All of us do it all of the time. We choose: between good guys and bad guys; between those with white hats and those with black hats; between red-blooded Americans and everybody else; between Republicans and Democrats; between the Moral Majority and the Immoral Minority; between Baptists and those of other denominations; between Conservatives and Liberals; or—if you please—between Fundamentalists and Moderates; between Calvinists and Arminians; between Continuationists and Cessationists; between BI folks, GCR folks, and Institutional Traditionalists…

Or, as Dr. Seuss might say, between Star-Bellied Sneetches and Plain-Bellied Sneetches. You know, the Sneetches on Beaches who chose sides based on having stars on their bellies, or none, until the day Sylvester McMonkey McBean showed up with his amazing Star-On machine, allowing those without stars to have stars; then, pulled out his Star-Off machine, allowing those with stars to have none; and, then, allowed each Sneetch to do as he pleased “until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew whether this one was that one or that one was this one or which one was what one… or what one was who.” And they all learned the lesson that day that, behind outward appearances, a Sneetch is a Sneetch is a Sneetch.

The Bible also has a few things to say about choosing sides…

For example, the time in Joshua 5:13-14 when Joshua “looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand,” and asked him, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” and he replied “Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” It makes you wonder whose side the Lord would be on, if He were to come to earth today, and see some of the conflicts we get involved in.

That is not to imply there is never a time to choose sides. Once again, Joshua himself provides us with the classic example of this, when he says in Joshua 24:15, “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

We must choose sides. Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me.” However, as Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, as Christians, even though we must boldly choose sides, our criteria for choosing sides is to be different than that of “mere men” who see things from “a worldly point of view”:

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?

Once we repent of our sin, and submit our lives to the lordship of Jesus, we see things differently. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view … Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

One of the big implications of this, as I see it, is that if anyone is truly in Christ (that is, if they are truly trusting in the gospel, and not in “a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all” to save them), we are to see them, more than anything else, not as members of this group or that group, with this label or that label, but as brothers and sisters in Christ. And, just as a Sneetch is a Sneetch is a Sneetch, a brother or sister in Christ is for us, above and beyond anything else they may happen to be, a brother or sister in Christ. And even those who are not yet in Christ we are to see as souls for whom Jesus died, and individuals with whom we may potentially spend eternity together in heaven.

I am aware that, as I write this, I run the risk of being misconstrued as saying there is no need to voice our convictions on what we believe on this issue or that, to discern truth from error, or to take a prophetic stand against sin. But that is not what I am saying.

As Christians, we are certainly never going to agree among ourselves on every single point of doctrine, political stance, or ethical standard. But that doesn’t mean we should just keep quiet, lest we run the risk of offending someone who thinks differently than we do. Nor does it mean there is not a time and a place for redemptive church discipline. It doesn’t even mean we should never call out certain groups of people or name names. Our Lord Jesus had some pretty choice words for the Pharisees and Sadducees. And He called Herod a fox.

However, as I understand it, no longer regarding anyone “from a worldly point of view” means approaching our brother or sister in Christ with whom we disagree with a different attitude. It means talking more about issues, and less about individuals. It means being more convictional and less political.

Politics is all about choosing sides. It’s largely about championing certain individuals, and demonizing others. But the truth is no one is perfect. Even our most reverenced heroes have their faults and shortcomings. And, if someone is truly in Christ, in spite of our disagreements with them, and in spite of the extent to which we may feel they are wrong on this issue or that issue, they are still our brother or sister in Christ, and are worthy of our unfailing love and respect.

In the Body of Christ, on the bottom line, we are all on the same team. We are all members of the same family. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). But “if [we] keep on biting and devouring each other, [we had better] watch out or [we] will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15).