This morning’s devotion comes to us from SM White.

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him 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?”

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so (Joshua 5:13-15).

One thing that I see in myself, and in the culture around me, is the tendency to so clearly define some people as villains and others as victims. I have seen this more recently in political contexts but also in a general sort of snobbery when we look down on people struggling with their external behavior modification. Perhaps they have not achieved as much financially, or maybe their kids didn’t win as high of an honors.

There is a view that people are either victims of their own lack of discipline, or they are simply the victims of an unjust world that needs to be fixed. It’s easy to recognize and reject this view when you are being judged but not so much when you are the judge.

9aa58f0524018e2b9714c8e005ef3581While there is often truth in these judgements, we tend to lack balance. The truth is that that we are often both the prodigal brother who sinned and was restored and also the older brother who gets mad because the younger was shown such lavish grace (Lk 15:11-32). We have all been both the weeping prostitute who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears because she is forgiven and the Pharisee who sees himself as a pretty good guy. The reality is that we are all sometimes the victim and sometimes the perpetrator of sin against ourselves and others. We all have blind spots for our own sinfulness.

In the moments when we see our own moral failures, we are actually in our most right minds. It is a great mercy of God when we get to see how much we are sinners continually dependent on our merciful savior. In that case, when we are put in our place (our humble and needy place), it is the safest and most blessed place to be. There is both rest, peace, and restoration to be found there.

While Christians should speak with moral clarity, should be just and truthful, there is often this kind of blind white hat/black hat view that our society has been trained with. We see it sometimes in movies or books, but even from the pulpit there is often this view that the bad people are out there, and the good ones are in here.

I’m not arguing for some sort of view that says everything is a gray area through some sort of moral equivalence. What I am saying is that the Law of God, properly understood, proclaims that we are not good people. Even after coming to Christ and experiencing all of the blessings of a new heart with new desires, we are still in continual need of Christ’s righteousness, because we are still broken people in a broken world who have a tendency to unjustly judge people we don’t like, or who don’t do what we want, or who don’t support the things we support. Again, it’s easy to see when we are on the judged side of things, but it’s next to impossible to see if we are committed to seeing things only based on what we want to be true. When it comes to moral disagreements, we often believe that we are either ok, or at least better than the person(s) on the other side of the issue.

This reminds me of Joshua’s experience in Joshua 5:13-15 when he was visited by the commander of the Lord’s army, and asked if he was on Joshua’s side or his enemies’ side. The answer was essentially neither, that He was on God’s side. The sides we take and the judgements we make, whether they are of a political , or agenda or against a fellow sinner, are all done from our positions as objects of mercy.

There are no Christians who have suddenly outgrown the need for mercy and are therefore qualified as morally superior, fit to be judge, jury, and executioner of others. Rather, we are all, always, simple beggars telling other beggars where to find bread; we are all, always, simple sinners covered in the pure white robes that we did not earn and do not deserve. Seeing the truth of our brokenness is the blessing that drives us to seeing the truth of His mercy, of His sufficiency for us, which is again and again being put in our place. A place of blessing, and peace, and hope.