Are We on God’s Side?

It’s easy to live in an echo chamber of affirmation. Are we allowing our views to be challenged?

By Michael Brown Published on October 25, 2017

As the story goes, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was asked if God was on his side. He replied, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

What about us? When it comes to the pressing social and moral and cultural and spiritual issues of our day, are we on God’s side?

It’s easy to be partisan and to live in an echo chamber of affirmation. It’s easy to preach to the choir and be invigorated by the choir’s hearty “Amen.” But are we really searching out these issues? Are we allowing our views to be challenged? Can we even articulate the arguments of those who differ with us? Are we seeking God’s perfect perspective? If not, what makes us so sure?

Partisan and Predictable

People on the other side of the political, social, racial, cultural or religious aisle are also dogmatic and convinced. They are sure they are right and we are wrong. They too have their comfortable echo chambers. What makes us so sure they are the ones in error? How much critical thought have we given to our positions?

We already know how most of the major media players will respond the moment we hear the latest political news. The response will be as partisan as it is predictable, to the point that the news commentary often sounds more like a parody than honest reporting.

We know how CNN will see things and we know how FOX will see things. We know what Huffington Post will highlight and we know what Breitbart will highlight. But will anyone be impartial? Will anyone be dispassionate? Will anyone allow truth and facts to be the arbiter rather than partisan politics to rule the day?

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When “my side” acts poorly, am I willing to admit it? When “my position” is exposed as faulty, am I willing to address the problems? When “my guy” does wrong, am I willing to acknowledge it? Or, to the contrary, will I defend my side, my position, my guy even to the point of embarrassment? Will I demonstrate integrity or will I simply play the game?

In the aftermath of Sen. Jeff Flake’s attack on President Trump from the Senate floor, coupled with his announcement that he would not seek reelection in 2018, headlines and bylines fell into place, as expected. The Huffington Post announced, “[Flake’s] departure is a political earthquake for 2018.” Breitbart, of course, saw it differently, with the pulsating words “Winning” flashed on the home page, accompanying this headline: “Jeff Flake Out, Will Not Seek Re-Election.”

Personally, I’m glad I don’t have to defend President Trump, the Republican Party, Congress, the Supreme Court or even my country for that matter. But am I more partisan than I know? Do I listen to dissenting voices? Does my reputation, not to mention my identity, hinge on being right?

Are We Missing What Matters?

These are questions I ask myself, and I welcome challenges from those who think I am tone deaf. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the spirit of the age and lose sight of eternally relevant qualities like justice and mercy and truth.

Jesus even rebuked some of the religious leaders of his day, men who were famous for their scrupulosity. Yet in their attention to religious details, they missed what mattered most to God. As the Lord said, “For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law — justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things” (Matt. 23:23 NLT).

Does this describe any of us?

Those of us who claim to believe in God need to rise above divisive tides, worship him, and align ourselves with what is right in his sight.

When it comes to issues like same-sex “marriage,” I have challenged myself to the core of my being with LGBT activist arguments, theologically, morally, socially and personally. I have heard their cries for “justice” and “equality” until those cries have torn at my heart out of love and concern for their well-being. Yet I am 100 percent sure that homosexual practice is not sanctioned by God. And that no matter how devoted a gay couple may be, they are not doing the Father’s will together.

Call me a homophobe or bigot or hater or KKK or Nazi or whatever, and it will only reaffirm to me the truth of my position and increase my concern for you. Of course, this doesn’t make me right, but I can assure you that I have done my due diligence to hear out the other side in coming to my firm convictions.

When it comes to abortion, I am equally dogmatic, totally convinced of the sanctity of life in the womb.

But when it comes to other issues, I have to admit that it’s all too easy for me to be swayed by the arguments from those on my side of the aisle, with little tolerance for arguments on the other side. Am I really hearing what they are saying, or do I immediately have my defenses up? Have I prejudged the matter without even hearing it? And am I the only one guilty of this?

For Or Against? “No.”

The book of Joshua contains this striking account as the children of Israel were about go to war against Jericho. As Joshua neared the city, “a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us, or for our adversaries?’”

This seemed like a logical question. If you’re a warrior — perhaps sent by God — whose side are you on? The man’s answer was classic: “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.”

I love this! Joshua asks, are you for us or against us? The messenger of the Lord replies, “No!” Instead, he says, “I have come as the commander of the Lord’s armies.”

That was enough to put Joshua on his face before this divinely-sent messenger, who then told him to take his shoes off, because the ground was holy. Joshua’s only need was to align himself with God.

Without a doubt, the days ahead will be fraught with deep social and political divides, perhaps worse than what we have seen so far. Those of us who claim to believe in God and honor him need to our best to rise above these divisive tides, to worship him, and to align ourselves with what is right and best in his sight. If we do that, I imagine we’ll have our own Joshua-like encounters that start with a divine “No.”

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  • Howard Rosenbaum

    Right. Jesus stayed on Gods side by only doing & saying what He saw & heard His Father do. He could have chosen to do otherwise, but He wouldn’t. We as His followers must endeavor to do likewise. Sadly, the most opportunistic among us will justify their self serving bias using the bible as an offensive weapon against an enemy of flesh & blood. That is not the enemy Gods word was intended to decimate. I’m speaking in generalities here but the real opposition against us, as Dr Brown suggests are those that the “commander of the Lords army” will take up the fight against. It can be a fine line of discernment between our opinions & the affirmation of the “thus sayeth the Lord” directives we are obligated to pursue …

  • Craig Roberts

    “…I welcome challenges from those who think I am tone deaf.”

    You say that but I don’t ever recall you actually responding to any critics in the combox. The question I have for you Dr. Brown is: When the Angel of the Lord appears to you and says, “I have come to bring justice to the Sodomites.” Will you eagerly await their destruction or will you plead for mercy on their behalf? Will you be bummed as Jonah was when Nineveh was spared if they suffer no heavenly repercussions for their sins? Or will you stand between them and the Angel of the Lord defying God’s sovereign will? Will you demand justice or mercy?

    If you demand justice your deep concern for their well being will be exposed as a sham. If you demand mercy, won’t you be going against the will of God as you have so confidently proclaimed His displeasure with them?

    Your identity is (much like a prophet) completely dependent on your relationship to our Lord. That’s awesome. The world desperately needs people like you to sound the alarm. But a false prophet (or phony preacher) is probably worse off than a sodomite in the kingdom of God. I’m not saying that I think you are a false prophet but I would like to test your “relationship” with God. If you know God’s will so well, what will become of the Sodomites and what do you intend to do about it?

    I eagerly await your reply.

    • Hmmm…

      This hits me exactly the way the trick questions came at Jesus. Like the group that flung the woman in adultery in the midst of his teaching with the either/or question. They think they have him either way he goes. Do you really want to be in that company? Jesus wasn’t caught, because he waited on God to tell him. It’s the devil that pressures with: which is it, A or B, come on, pick one … The Father will often have a C for us. Jesus answered the real issue. Whether or not Dr. Brown chooses to answer, the features struck me clearly. No offense is meant. However, I will go further to suggest as in the case from the Gospels, yours is a misdirected question.

      • Craig Roberts

        Very perceptive. But there is no trick here. Your analysis suggests a corollary. If Jesus were to ask Dr. Brown if he was without sin, what would he say? I don’t doubt that Dr. Brown has enough self awareness to admit that he is a sinner. But if Jesus asked him, “What should I do with the Sodomites?” the only logical answer is, “Forgive them Lord as you forgave me.”

        • Hmmm…

          No, they have that “rub” as you put it. They must repent to be forgiven. Repent means to change, to turn around. When one decides to do that, the Holy Spirit comes along side to help with it.

          Yes, as he forgave us is as we repented, not just automatically. That’s very cheap grace otherwise. We come on God’s terms, and we need to study what the scripture says to catch the “ifs” and conditions in order to meet them. But when we do, which is our part, God will do his.

          And, why are you concerned with Dr. Brown’s sins; you shouldn’t be. You’ve got your own on your hands. As a born again man (I understand), his are forgiven because he has allowed Jesus to be his substitute, repented and turned to Jesus as his Lord. How about you?

          • Craig Roberts

            I’m not concerned with Dr. Brown’s sins. I’m concerned with his confidence. I’m not a preacher or a teacher so I depend on people like Dr. Brown to teach me what exactly it means to be a Christian. He said he welcomed challenges so I gave him a challenge.

            You make some excellent observations. I agree with Dr. Brown on probably every moral issue I can think of. But if you’re going to be God’s spokesman, you should be aware of how high you have set the bar for yourself.

            He uses the story of Joshua but can’t see the mirror reflection of our own struggles with sinners. God has his own “side” that you can’t just claim for yourself.

          • Hmmm…

            I’m missing you on setting the bar high myself and claiming God’s side for myself ? I’m working with the word. It makes high claims and promises. And they are for you.

            You know, you need to come on into the family and have these discussions. Don’t stand outside and look in. Come on in.

          • Craig Roberts

            Good advice. But once I come inside I have to decide which table to sit at. Evangelical, mainline Protestant, Catholic, etc. You even have Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other sects claiming to be on God’s side. So how can I be sure that Dr. Brown is sitting at the right table to be truly on “God’s side”?

            He claims to be able to “see” God’s will but Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” Disturbing words for anyone that claims to “see” and speak for God’s “side”.

            I don’t want to give Dr. Brown a hard time because we all have to wrestle with these seemingly impossible parables. But like I said, he asked for it. Literally.

          • Hmmm…

            whoa … No, make Jesus your Lord. He takes it from there. And that’s what you want. You ask God where he wants you to be, and that will be the best place for you right now that you could possibly desire. He’ll have your provision there, your grace, which means your ability to succeed, your help and strength. Hey, being in a church is one of the most vital decisions there are. God will show you. He has changed me from one to another over the years, but I learned not to try to pick it out myself. I don’t know what’s best for me, and none of us do. We may think so. But it’s so good to have a loving heavenly Father who takes care of these things.

            Oh man, don’t let such keep you out. Come on in to Father’s house, climb up on his knee, and talk it all out. You’ll jump down with a spring in your step because you know what? You’ll have it made! Absolutely. God has made our way. We just come to him to find out where it is. You’ll start learning what it is to be led by the Holy Spirit. It’s what you want really, because it will have God’s help with it, his blessing. An adventure awaits!!

          • Craig Roberts

            You make a great evangelist. You actually make Church sound fun. Something to approach with eager anticipation…instead of existential dread. 🙂

          • Hmmm…

            It’s the Lord who is vital and alive. He has the verve and his path is the true blue. It’s not all fun and games, but peace and joy as underpinnings are what takes you through and holds you strong. So, you want to go direct to God through Jesus and keep doing that. The vitality and life are in the relationship. He has a plan for each life, and that’s what we want. Church is a vital part, to have him place you with those who can enhance your walk and whom you can grow with. Only God knows the inner workings and background and all that makes things happen the best. We can trust him. His connections are going to be priceless to you. What a privilege, the privilege of a child of God. Be one NOW. God bless.

          • Hmmm…

            P.S. You want a bible church. The Holy Spirit will not lead you to a church that teaches against the bible, that Jesus is not the savior, a good man, but not how one is saved – NO. You will have s sense of being home when you visit the right church. He may have repeated thoughts come to you about a place. Step out on those. If you don’t feel peace somewhere, don’t stay. Oh, he’ll take care of it. If you trust him, he’ll work with you, even if he has to fly a bird by with a church bulletin and drop it at your feet. lol Well … don’t expect that … 🙂
            But one can listen to church sermons nowadays on their websites. Do you know Christians who go to church, some family, neighbors, someone you work with? Visit with them, or go on your own to check them out if you see that person as solid. But follow peace mainly, how you feel on the inside.

            But take a moment and ask Jesus to come into your heart, so you will be working with the Holy Spirit. He’ll lead you every step of the way. He’ll do beyond your small thinking (we all have small thinking) and do “exceedingly, abundantly, above what” you ask or think.

        • Hmmm…

          By the way, and this is something that is often left off of the telling of this story — At the end, Jesus told the woman to go and SIN NO MORE.

          He said he did not condemn her, but he didn’t say – free pass; you’re ok like you are.

          Neither will he say that to the sodomite. Because they are not either. Leviticus refers to that particular sin, among some others, as an abomination. Jesus died for it along with the others, but what is purchased by grace must be accessed by faith. One must confess, turn, ask for help and definitely do receive God’s forgiveness after that. And he will cleanse from the unrighteousness as well.

          • Craig Roberts

            True. I can’t argue with that. Thank you for the illuminating insights.

    • Stephen D

      In the Bible, God shows his mercy in two ways. First he gives the wicked time. God withholds his justice so that the wicked may reconsider their position. Secondly, God shows mercy when he forgives the wicked who turn to Christ. There is no other way that God shows mercy.
      The Bible teaches that God must impose the just penalty on wickedness. As Christians we should desire this and pray for it. Thus the psalmist rightly prays that God will punish evil doers. Although we daily see horrific evil being perpetrated around us, as Christians we are right to be thankful that God will not let this go unpunished.

      • Craig Roberts

        Good answer. But what about the evil that we do? Do we expect our just deserts or to be forgiven by the blood of Christ?

        • Hmmm…

          1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

          • Craig Roberts

            I guess the rub is that we have to confess our sins to get forgiven. Makes sense. Thanks for the reply.

          • Hmmm…

            🙂 Well, it’s a condition anyway. Good result though!!

  • Tim Pan

    Mr. Brown. I do not know if your comments are a true reflection of your faith. But I find it hard to believe you are conflicted on the issues you discussed . The Bible is very clear on the issue of homosexuality and abortion. Nevertheless, I to have listened to story after story . I remember imploring a young man not to abort his baby. They aborted anyway. Yes the stories are heart rending, but in the end I return to God’s word. I usually end up saying I understand but I do not agree with your decision.

    • Bryan

      I think Dr. Brown agrees with your position on the issues he discussed. He even says so in the article. The point was to make sure he (and we) review not just what is given to us by “our side” on any given issue, but also to understand where the other points of view are coming from. Maybe their conclusion is wrong but they have a valid concern. From the homosexuality issue, bullying is a problem. The answer isn’t that homosexuality is great and normal but the bullying still needs to be addressed. Sometimes we blind ourselves to the suffering caused by sin because of the type of sin. That is something we must be on guard against.
      On a subject that wasn’t covered in this article, I have friends who have divorced their spouses recently. These are people who I haven’t kept in touch with as much, perhaps, as I should, so I’ve found out after the fact. This grieves me deeply because in both cases these are godly people who I’ve looked up to. If I give up on them and push them away, how will that help them? Maybe there won’t be reconciliation in their marriages but I shouldn’t give up my influence in their lives because I disagree with their actions. It’s even different from the phrase that gets thrown around so often to “hate the sin, not the sinner”. This is something I am continually wrestling with so as to not develop such a callous heart.

      • Tim Pan

        Thank you for your very thoughtful post. We live in a world of great suffering. The older I get the more I see of it. I had a discussion with three men the other day who we fretting about the culture. I said I am to be a role model. God’s role model. People may hate me for my beliefs , but they know one thing : Steve never changes. I endeavor to be consistent reflection of the light the Lord has given me. I strive every day to be the man God wants me to be. I want the Lord to be proud of me. Brother fight the good fight of the faith and never give up and NEVER GIVE IN.

        This morning I had a conversation with a young Christian woman who sadly believes she can not judge people. Among other things she talked to me about a girl friend of hers that is a hard drug user. She said I will not judge her. I looked into her eyes and hardened the tone of my voice and pointed my finger at her and said if this was my friend and I loved her I would tell her “You are a drug addict and you are killing yourself.” Every change for good or bad begins with a well measured judgemental statement. It takes courage to stand against a powerful sin that has consumed a love one , but if not I who? …18 So He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

        Luke 10:19: “19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you.”

        • Hmmm…

          Good for you. “Judging” is much misunderstood. Maybe if we found another word for what you did, like calling sin, sin, so it can be dealt with and the person go free. We are to judge prophecy, the spirit of things about whether that is something we ought to believe or take hold of. Of course, judging people themselves in a condemning fashion certainly hurts and some call it their discernment. That’s awful. But Jesus spoke up and spoke out, as did Peter and Paul, and so should we as there is a time for that. If we speak the truth in love, we can be part of the answer. Some call this tough love, but not letting someone drift in needless wrong and hurtful ways, deception, is not loving them or obeying God, who would use us if we would be open to it.

          • Tim Pan

            Often times I feel like the lone survivor. So I deeply appreciate your affirming words. This observation by you is so well said” … but not letting someone drift in needless wrong and hurtful ways, deception, is not loving them …” I think the Church has forgot how to be courageous . It is scary to attack a demonic strong hold, but we must not turn from our duty to set the captive free. I often tell people if you want to know who Jesus is read: Luke 4: 17-19…
            “17 the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it was written: 18“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”…”

  • Stephen D

    Here in Australia, the Christian foundations of our laws, way of life and system of education have been constantly under attack from within throughout the 230 years since the first British settlement. This process has accelerated in recent decades. The result is tens of thousands of people who are trying desperately to invent the good life, struggling day after day to find their own way to heaven, to work out their own private moral system. It would be a lot easier, and a lot better, to return to the old paths.
    I see so many promiscuous young people, trying to be happy in a lifestyle that is doomed to failure. Worse, it is doomed to impact negatively on many of the people with whom they have relationships on one level or another. God’s way is best. Those who put their faith in their own ability to invent an ethical system and a way of life in the short time available are facing an impossible task. Yet this is what they are condemned to do by the ‘secularists’ and atheists who have taken over our nation.

  • tz1

    First, often both sides are wrong so you need to find the truth which is neither to the left nor the right.

    Second, not opposing is often seen as endorsement, particularly when it is popular and being pushed.

    You don’t mention some of the earlier questions that have popped up – Indefinite detention (including innocent people that were abused) at GITMO. Torture in various forms or what was denied – Waterboarding IS torture. Drone strikes or bombing against ambiguous targets, often killing wedding parties. Toxic waste in “burn pits” contaminating those foreign countries. Supporting child rapists because they are the police in the Afghan city we are trying to occupy.

    Were any of the wars we seem to be still in (without a Constitutional Article 2 declaration) “just wars”? Much less Niger, Yemen, or when Quadaffi was deposed and sodomized with a bayonet?

    What of North Korea? Iran?

    Lets not keep it to abstractions. The answers might be unpopular, uncomfortable, or hard, but you are the one that is saying it is important to be on the right side and not listen to the partisans.

    Then there’s solitary confinement, prison rape, and the death penalty / capital punishment.

    It is reasonable to say “I don’t have time to investigate everything” but it is damnable and disingenous to say “I’m leaving it to others”, especially when discussing in fora like here.

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