"decide today whom you will serve"

Rising Sun, MD

I noticed these lines from Joshua 24 this morning, in the day's lectionary readings:

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, and addressed them, saying:

“Fear the Lord and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

“If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling.

“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

I've been thinking more about social rejection and humiliation (the experience of the outsider or "nobody"). About why this is an important part of following Jesus, why he himself had to endure it.

I think it has something to do with choosing God, choosing between the acceptance and affirmation of the human society—which becomes idolatrous to us in its power ("We, the People")—or the acceptance and affirmation of God despite social rejection. It's easier to see this idolatry in the identification of ancient gods with distinct peoples and nations and cities, but humanity hasn't changed so much. I've written about the idolatry of society before ("The Great Beast"). But I think I overlooked the psychological aspect, the desire to be accepted and valued by our god, that influences us so strongly. We don't want to be rejected, cast out, condemned by God. But who is our god?

Because this is such an important choice, who is our god, the trial of social resistance and rejection (even to the point of humiliation and exile) becomes crucial. The extreme experience of the choice. And a way we know that we have chosen to serve God.