Serving Leaders Take Sides

February 17, 2021

Leaders are often forced to navigate different sides on many divisive issues of our time. We live in a world that takes sides on political persuasions, social views, health issues, economic perspectives, and many more. The sides chosen by a leader deeply impact their own leadership and those who follow. When a leader chooses a wrong side, they may quickly be sidelined! How does a serving leader decide which side to take? Joshua had an encounter with a man that provides help for serving leaders choosing sides.  

13 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?” 14 “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?” 15 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).

Joshua was leading God’s people into their first battle. It was a crucial time. Success at this point would greatly boost his reputation while a failure would be devastating. He wanted to make sure his side would win! When he meets the man with the sword, likely an angel, Joshua asks a natural question, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”  What does his encounter teach serving leaders?

Serving leaders acknowledge their own side.

Joshua saw the situation from his side. He wanted to know if this man was for him or against him. “Are you for us or for our enemies?” But in the encounter, he realizes that there is another side which he has not considered. Serving leaders acknowledge their own bias to think in terms of sides. They recognize they see the world with the question, “Do you support my vision or my competitors?” But from Joshua, serving leaders learn the need to stop and recognize that there are other sides!    

 Serving leaders accept God’s side.

Joshua must have been shocked with the man’s response, “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” This response completely changed the conversation and reframed the question. It was no longer, Joshua’s question changed from “Who is on my side?” to “Am I on the right side?” God calls serving leaders to change their vantage point, not right and wrong, but about who is in charge. God’s agenda is above ouragenda. His side is often not found in either side of our loud debates. Serving leaders do not compromise truth but they acknowledge that their own view is limited and may not be as close to God’s as they previously thought! Serving leaders don’t dismiss their vision, they just submit that vision to a higher purpose. They accept that their role is not to convince people to join their side, but to rally everyone to God’s side. Serving leaders recognize they can’t win the battle for sides until they get themselves on God’s side.

Serving leaders adjust to a new side.

Joshua fell facedown! He would go back to the same people and continue to lead them into battle at Jericho. But his perspective has changed. He recognizes that he is leading on God’s side, not asking God to be on his side. He would still command, but as one under authority. He would no longer call people to “his side”, instead he would invite all to join him on God’s side. Serving leaders adjust their leadership to acknowledge that God is not on their side; they are on God’s side. They humbly ask God for His direction on the divisive issues facing them and learn that the sides are not so much about ‘us’ and ‘them’ if they focus on Him!

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What situation am I currently facing in my leadership that is divisive or in which people take opposing sides? Consider that issue as you work through the following questions.
  • In what ways do I naturally see the different “sides” only from my side? What have I done in the past week that illustrates this? How could I get a more balanced view of the ‘other’ side?
  • In this situation, how do I assume that God is on my side? What difference does this make in how I lead? What if I asked God if He was on my side on this issue and He responded, “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”?  How might that shape the way I respond? Do I fear that truth will be compromised or can I trust that God knows truth better than I?
  • What does it mean for my leadership for me to ‘fall on my face’ on this issue? When I get back up, how will my leadership be different?  

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we will begin looking at the life of Boaz.