One of the things that has always stood out to me about God is how he takes sides. Me, I honor peace-making in all situations. I’m always looking for a way to reconcile everybody, and I’m very slow to pick sides in an argument. I prefer never having to.
Not God. He’s God, so he figures everyone ought to be on his side. He also figures no opinion is as educated as his, so he always has a side.
It can be good to be slow to pick a side in an argument. Modern Christians are very prone to having a nauseous obsession (this is one possible translation of noseo in 1 Tim. 6:4) with disputes. In many such cases, God’s position is that both sides are in sin.
But even in such cases, God usually isn’t looking for a man (or woman) who sweetly settles the disputants down. He’s looking for a disciple who will speak straightly enough that the Holy Spirit has something to back up.
We forget—I know I often do—that our words can carry power because they are of God, not just because they’re full of wisdom. God doesn’t want to persuade the world with words. He wants to convict them by his Spirit.
Who can deny that Jesus was a straight talker, giving God something to back up?
Looking for the Kingdom of God
I’m not really on subject yet. My subject is the fact that Joseph of Arimathaea was considered honorable by God because he was looking for the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50-51), despite the fact that he was being a disciple only secretly because he feared the Jews (Jn. 19:38).
Joseph was taking God’s side. He wanted God to rule. His opinions agreed with God’s opinions, not those of the Pharisees around him, nor those that made others happy.
This mattered to God. The Scriptures call him a disciple, and they call him good and just.
I read a book by N.T. Wright that said that "righteousness" is a very "covenant" word. It doesn’t have so much to do with good deeds (though 1 Jn. 3:7-10 makes it clear that it can). It has to do with being in good covenant standing with God. Righteousness means you are fully in the covenant; you have not violated it.
I believe this. It not only rings true with me, but it helps reconcile some of the things Paul says about righteousness as a gift and what John says about the practice of righteousness (1 Jn. 3:7-10, as just mentioned, and 2:3-4 as well).
Joseph had a big problem. He was being a secret disciple. Jesus once said that if we fail to acknowledge him before men, he won’t acknowledge us before his Father. In some way, though, Joseph was at least acknowledging Christ because Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all knew he was a disciple. Further, Jesus has acknowledged Joseph as a disciple to the whole world by having the Holy Spirit include him in Scripture.
And he gave him one kudo … one only. Joseph was looking for the kingdom of God.
What Are You Looking For?
So you don’t smoke pot, you don’t cuss, you buy Girl Scout Cookies (mint chocolate, of course), and you don’t watch that obnoxious, evil, offensive, and effeminate Jack Sparrow on Pirates of the Caribbean. Congratulations for all those good things, but …
What are you looking for?
Are you looking for the kingdom of God? Or are you looking for a nice retirement, a job with benefits, a college education, and the eternal reign of the glorious congress, president, and supreme court of the U.S. of A.?
Beyond the question of whether you’re doing good things, who’s side are you on?
God really cares about that.
Do you wonder why a man like David was "after God’s own heart"? I assure you, it wasn’t because he had nine wives, ten concubines, nor because he killed Uriah to marry Bathsheba, nor because he gave Abigail two whole months to mourn before he married her. It also wasn’t because he flipped back and forth between ordering people to leave Shimei alone and ordering them to kill him.
David was always on God’s side.
And he didn’t care whom he offended. (As a side note, I’m campaigning for the reinstatement of the word “whom.” You use it wherever you would use “him,” and you use “who” where you would use “he.”)
Even Samson, who did not qualify as a man after God’s own heart, was greatly used by God. Despite his problems, he always fought on Israel’s side, even when the motivation was sometimes really, really selfish and juvenile.
It’s God’s Feelings That Matter
Real prophets are persecuted.
It’s because they’re really careful about God’s feelings.
It’s okay, even important, to be kind.
It’s not okay to risk hurting God’s feelings.
Who will walk in the holy hill of the Lord? He … in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord. ~Psalm 15:4