Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Although these words are commonly spoken in political contexts, they are hard to apply in some settings. You can't really put on the other team's uniform during halftime at a football game. A superstar athlete can, however, forgo the best contract available to sign for less money with the team he thinks can win a championship. This idea of joining the opposition can describe a wide range of choices from minor compromise to total submission. In any form, these words speak directly in opposition to the thinking that “winners are winners and losers are losers.” As a correctional chaplain, it was within my mandate to provide pastoral care to staff. Very few reached out, as it would be seen as a sign of weakness. In fact, it was just as likely that officers would follow the phrase above by engaging in criminal behaviour such as bringing drugs in for the inmates. All staff were required to take a course called “anatomy of s set up” which warned of the dangers of sliding into the “if you can’t beat them, join them” camp.
1 Corinthians 1:9-10
We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did,
and were destroyed by serpents.
And do not complain as some of them did,
and were destroyed by the destroyer.
The “join ‘em if you can't beat ‘em” philosophy depends on the particular circumstances and the answers to a number of questions. The chief ones being “Are you sure you can't beat them?” and “Is it even possible to join them?” A common biblical theme is that those called by God usually resist that calling. In giving this history lesson of Israel to the Corinthians, Paul is bringing this theme to mind. You will never defeat God with your idolatry, so you are better to join with God in worship and prayer. Although Paul does not answer the two questions explicitly his answer is implicit: you are not going to beat God, and you can join by saying a simple yes to God's invitation.