God, whose side are you on?
Alvin and Susan Teng had a predicament. Their oldest son Jeric was graduating from college and was in his last playing season. He was team captain for the UST Tigers while their youngest son Jeron was the star player for the opposing team, a sophomore at De La Salle.
The stadium was packed, but all eyes were on the two brothers. As my son Joshua and I watched on television, it wasn’t hard to notice the running commentary of the sportscasters about the two brothers.
Every so often as the camera caught a glimpse of Alvin and Susan, I wondered whose side they were on. Even so, what must it be like to be in their shoes with two loved ones on opposing sides?
Alvin recounted how well-meaning friends jokingly told him to let Jeron allow his older brother to win the championship. They reasoned he still has an opportunity to win one but his brother was playing his last season in the college league.
Fortunately, Alvin and Susan had the good sense and volition to give their children wise counsel. Their advice, “fight your best fight, give your very best to your team – God’s will be done. Most of all, no matter what happens, stay humble.”
True enough during the game, when Jeron suffered from severe cramps, his older brother went over to his bench to check on him. And when the final buzzer sounded, and La Salle won, young Jeron took his brother Jeric’s hand and shared the victory with him.
The Tengs decided that they would not take sides but let God’s will prevail. It was important to them that their children lived out their lives with the right values.
The Consequence of Taking Sides
Sometimes taking sides in politics or religious issues can be done for the wrong motives too. The consequences, however, are much higher than two boys who may lose an opportunity to become champions.
In this regard the worse thing we can do is to take sides based on personalities, personal preferences or a false sense of loyalty rather than making a choice based on what is right, good and just.
So, Which Side is God On?
Is He Republican or Democrat? Is He Cornucopian or Malthusian? Catholic, Evangelical or Pentecostal?
There is a curious story in Joshua 5 about a moment before the army of Israel was about to attack the city of Jericho. As Joshua neared Jericho, he saw a man with a drawn sword standing in his way (Joshua 5:13).
Joshua asked the man if he was for them or against them: “Which side are you on?” (v.14)
Introducing himself as the Commander of the Lord’s army, the man replied, “Neither.” You would have thought God would side with Israel, after all He was the one who wanted them to take possession of the promise land.
But the commander was clear, “Neither.” God does take sides but not in the way that we do. It seems that from this story, God is not always pro-Israel but He is always pro-God. Time and again God allowed the Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans and others to overrun them, especially when they did not walk in His will.
The Truth About God’s Side
When asked what God’s message was to Joshua, the Commander replied: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” (v.15)
Moses received the same command before he was called to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians (Exodus 3:5). This was about an act of reverence and humility to not frivolously assume that our side is automatically God’s.
More importantly it was vital to realize that God’s side is where His Holy Presence is and not about our perceived preferences.
Be Careful Which Side You Take
The Pharisees believed God was on their side. The Romans jumped on their bandwagon because it was the politically correct thing to do. The rest of Jewish society sided with them and abandoned the carpenter named Jesus. Together they crucified the Holy One of God.
Be careful when you think that your side is always God’s side. Popular opinion or being politically correct does not automatically signal God’s approval either. Most important don’t let personalities and politics decide which side you choose.
How to respond?
Check your motives. Respond in humility and seek the will of your Holy God. Don’t pick short cut solutions but godly choices.
Remember the Tengs, not all your sons may win a championship but the whole family wins in the end.
PS. To make sure family members were cheering for the boys, Alvin and his middle daughter Almira cheered for UST, while Susan and oldest daughter Alyssa rooted for La Salle. After the games, everyone was back to being Team Teng.
Thank you to inquirer.net for the use of the picture above.