Be Strong and Stand Firm
Have I not told you: Be strong and stand firm? Be fearless then, be confident, for go where you will, Yahweh your God is with you. Joshua 1:9
These words from Joshua came at the time when the Promised Land had just been conquered by the united tribes of the Chosen People. This was a collective action, the Chosen People were united and, as a result, they were filled with the confidence of the Presence of God in their midst. While these words of Joshua are rooted in the martial conquest of the Promised Land and in the fervor of victory, we have to ask ourselves, “What does this mean for us today?” For the scriptures are meant to teach us in every age.
In today’s world, Christianity is just as divided as are the political and social realms. Division and dissention are the rule of our day, both within and without the Church. And, we have heard it said many times, “A house divided cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25) Indeed, the Church is under attack from many directions today, precisely because its divisions within have made it weak in its duties to the world. Rather than being a time of victory for the Church, we live in a time of siege. It is this very fact that brings us to reflect on this passage from Joshua in different way today. Because we are divided, because the needy world does not see us acting in concert with one another, or in accord with the beautiful words of the scriptures we espouse, it ridicules and reviles us. It is not challenged by our love for one another to want to change its ways, or to want to be one with us. It sees no reason in our behavior to imitate us, no reason to come to Christ. We are failing in our misson to evangelize the world because we are not united in our faith.
The Promised Land for Christians is not a piece of territory, some ground to be won by force of arms. Jesus taught us that the Promised Land is not here, but in Heaven. He taught us during his life among us that the way to that Promised Land is through the mystery of suffering, the grace of forgiveness, the transcendent force of compassion for all of God’s children. We must be strong and stand firm in the one faith, then, in the midst of the world’s and our own personal suffering, so that the world will know us by what we do. The world needs to see us strong and united, confident in the unique and singular message of our Christian faith. Yes, it is our mission to bring the victory of the cross to the world, but not by force of arms. Rather we are to conquer it with our love for one another, in imitation of Christ. Let us pray, then, that all Christians begin to come together in faithful unity. Then we will be able to go together as one in faith and, “Be fearless [and] confident, for go where you will, Yahweh your God is with you.”