William Travis famously drew a line in the sand, asking his fellow Alamo defenders to join him in putting their lives on the line for liberty in Texas.
When it comes to choosing a side in an important debate, most politicians prefer to hang back and see where the crowd is going before they commit themselves to a position. Unlike Travis, they want to be on the “safe” side of every fight.
The politicians don’t say that, of course. They say they are being judicious, thoughtful, and diligent.
To quote Teddy Roosevelt: “Bullfeathers!”
What the politicians are most often doing is waiting to see where the majority will land, and calculating the latest point at which they can pick a side in service to their personal ambitions.
I want to take you back a couple thousand years and 7,000 miles, to the plains of Jericho, where a pivotal question about “sides” took place.
After crossing the Jordan River, the Israelites camped on those plains in preparation for God’s command that they march on the highly fortified city of Jericho.
Joshua, who had only recently taken over as the Israelites’ leader, was confronted with a mighty warrior who suddenly appeared outside the encampment. That this warrior was a fearsome sight is not in question. Who was he? Was this simply an angelic being, or – as many theologians argue – a “pre-incarnate” visit by the Son of God?
Either way, Joshua decided he better be on the right side of this guy.
So Joshua asks the ultimate whose-side-are-you-on-anyway question: “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” Seems like the right question before a big fight, right?
The response probably isn’t what is Joshua was expecting: “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.”
That answer should ring in our ears as loudly as it did for Joshua.
It is so easy to be consumed by the perceived righteousness of our cause, and spend so much time worrying who is and isn’t on our side, that we lose sight of why we fight in the first place. Joshua had to realize he wasn’t merely fighting flesh and blood for a worldly prize. His job wasn’t to be successful, but to be faithful.
Same goes for each of us, and for me.
In preparing for the battles ahead, I need to worry less about which side other people are on, and more focused on being on the right side for the right reasons.