“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword…and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’
‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’ (Joshua 5:21-22)
My father (now 88) grew up in the former Yugoslavia during the Second World War. In 1944, he was on an island that was controlled by Partisans (Communists). The entire island was starving. On one particular day, many boxes of food arrived on a boat that had managed to slip past the German naval ring around the island. On each of the boxes, together with the American flag, was written in large black type: “A gift from the people of the United States.”
Despite the obvious identity of the donors, the Partisans told the assembled masses the impossible tale that the food had come, not from the “People of the United States,” but from their comrades in Communist Russia. No one dared to disagree.
To the Communists the Church represented part of the established order: an order they sought to overthrow by violent global revolution. And you don’t make good revolutionaries out of Christians who are commanded in their Scriptures to “pray for those in authority,” (1 Timothy 2:2) and to, “give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” (Matthew 22:20) And so, as murderous and godless Communism swept across Eastern Europe, the Church looked for political salvation. In Yugoslavia (or Croatia at least), many in the Church fled into the arms of local Fascists and tragically became soiled by association with their murderous genocide of Serbs and Jews.
I believe there is a lesson from this history for Christians today. We are living in an age when paler shades of these extremes are again beginning to rear their ugly heads in the public square. Whether the subject is immigration, asylum seekers, homosexual marriage, gender theory, Islam, Israel, climate change or Australia Day celebrations, political and social debate on almost every subject is polarizing to the extremes. In the media, and especially on social media, everyone is ‘outraged’ at the smallest difference of opinion. Bullies demand us to choose sides. There is little expression of love for enemies voiced in the public square or on social media.
Like the Partisans who claimed the boxes of food came from their comrades in the USSR, so the “cultural Marxists” of today seek to impose a political correctness upon us, that irrespective of plain evidence, allows no dissenting voice. Meanwhile, reactionaries on the right, rail against immigrants and other minorities and use such inflammatory language that they appear to validate the very left-wing agenda they so despise. Where is the love of one’s neighbour in all this political clamour?
Christians must have none of this. They must be careful not to run from fear of the godless left into the arms of the godless right. Even as we stand up for what we believe (which we must), we are commanded to love our enemies and seek their welfare (Matthew 5:44). We are not promised to receive love in return. Indeed, we are promised the opposite (John 15:19). But as Joshua discovered (in the above passage), God will not take “our side.” We must choose His side. It is the only safe place to be…even if we should die defending our position.
For Prayer and Reflection: What are your politics? Pray that God will help you overcome your personal political prejudices and help you align them with his Word and will.
For Further Reading: Romans 13:1-6.