“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”Joshua 24:14-15 NIV
But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord is one of those mic drop Bible verses that has since made its way onto t-shirts and Bible covers and wall decor.
As someone with a drawer full of Bible verse t-shirts myself, I see a problem in the way we might approach this verse. If we use this verse as an us against the world battle cry (which we tend to do with a lot of Bible verses), we fail to see it’s real value. It is meant to be an urgent call to examine ourselves, not the world, and to be willing to get rid of what evils and idols we cling to ourselves. Even if that means we will need to separate from our beloved church friends, who may not, themselves, be willing to put down whatever old evils and beloved idols or prior sins they once drug in to camp too.
Lyrics to the gospel song, ‘I have decided to follow Jesus. Though none go with me, I still will follow.’ also come to mind when I read this verse.
As a clergy abuse survivor, I see how our general acceptance of idolatry and false gods and dangerous spirits, some of those harkening back to Egypt; remains a problem within the modern church. One that then opened the gate for all manner of predators to come in and get by with abusing children right inside the very walls of the church, too. The world has nothing much to do with all that. It’s the church’s refusal to parse out its own self; that caused that issue.
If we read Joshua’s covenant from God in its entirety, see Joshua 24, we see that he is talking to Israel, (which in modern correlation would be like a sermon given to the entire assembly of professing believers). He was not lecturing the nearby Amorites or the far away Egyptians, just to be overheard by the Israelites who would then find that edifying and affirming that they were ‘separate’. Not even close. He was parsing and exhorting Israel herself! He drew a line in the sand, ‘come clean NOW, or go back to Egypt where you came from!’
In a modern sense, we would say Joshua was talking TO THE CHURCH, and entirely about the problems he was seeing therein. Sins and evil that people, not willing to fully convert and wholeheartedly follow God; had brought into the fellowship willingly. He was not so much urging the church to remain separate from the fallen world, as much as he was urging the church to examine itself and then kick out all the worldly bits. Idols and beliefs and ways of living to which they were still clinging, in spite of all the ways God kept delivering them from those very things!
I am going to go ahead and make the leap here and say the following. The ultimatum, therefore, choose this day whom you will serve, was given to the church, still applies to the church today, and therefore remains all about the church’s own collusion with evil, with idolatry, with sin. Not about its inherent separation from the world. Which is actually a laughable concept, given the apostate state of things today.
What does that mean to us, today?
It means that when I know or see that another Christian in my own circle or camp, allowing or partaking something which I can clearly see harkens back to Egypt, whether that is a book written by a New Age spiritualist, or a diet plan promoted by someone who channels spirits, or more alarmingly: siding with an abuser: I try to speak up about it. Or, at the very least, if no door opens for exhortation: I just resist whatever it is, myself. And when the opportunity arises, I share that as for me I don’t do Yoga, or read books like that one, or burn sage sticks, give space for a wolf in the sanctuary, or what have you, because I am a dedicated Jesus follower and that stuff doesn’t jive with following Him.
And taking Joshua 24:15 seriously also means that when I disclosed my own abuse at the hands of a Protestant minister, I knew it would cost me my family. In time I saw that I would never quite fit in again, either, with a lot of the brothers and sisters in the modern church world.
In the absence of any visible Joshua’s, I am, myself, speaking up more and more when I notice things the church at large is tolerating and passing off as just one more thing covered by grace.
And that’s ok. Because as I wait for more of the church to decide whom to follow, on our collective way to the Promised Land, I stay quite busy purging my own tent clean of all that I once drug into it myself.