Monday, January 11, 2010

So you think you know their motives?

In reading today, I came across an episode in Joshua (ch. 22) that is a great example of conflict resolution on a social level (this wasn't just an individual in conflict with another individual). The tribes that were settling east of the Jordan (Reuben, Gad, & Manasseh) had sent warriors to help the rest of the tribes establish themselves. Once everyone was tucked into their new digs, Joshua thanked them for their selfless service to the nation and sent them back to their own clans.

These guys recognized the natural border of the Jordan River and anticipated that in the future, it may become a barrier between them and the rest of Israel. They were afraid they would be left out of the nation, essentially. So they built an altar there as a memorial - to remind the other tribes of the nation that they were family, too, and to remind their own descendants that they were part of the people on the other side of the river. This expression of their faith, however, was badly misinterpreted by the other tribes as an act of rebellion against God.  "The altar" (the Tabernacle altar) was the only appropriate altar - so they gathered to go to war against what they saw as an insurrection against the very God who'd rescued them from Egypt and given them this land. This was a major offense and they were ready to fight!

Wisely, however, they sent a delegation ahead of the war party that was able to find out what was going on. When the people of Rueben, Gad, and Manasseh humbly offered their defense for the altar (they weren't intending to betray God), and explained their intent (they wanted to stay connected to God and His people), the delegation was satisfied and war was averted. They would remain one people serving one God.

I wonder how well we offer this same grace to people today who express their faith a little differently than we do? Do we stick with the first conclusion we jump to (often the most negative one), or do we go to the group we've taken issue with and find out the truth of the matter? Or do we just ignore the problem and let bitterness hold us hostage? It's easy to gather a tribe within a congregation and nurse a grudge against 'the others' but it leaves "the people" less than whole. Don't let misconceptions separate your tribe from the rest of the body.


  1. you are one insightful dude.thanks for that.

  2. Thanks Bill... I started to pat myself on the back, but then I realized if I was that insightful, it probably wouldn't have taken 30 years of reading the Bible to notice this. Guess I better keep reading...


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