Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It’s War! Or Not?

“Then the Israelites heard it said, ‘Look, the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh have built an altar on the frontier of the land of Canaan at the region of the Jordan, on the Israelite side.’ When the Israelites heard this, the entire Israelite community assembled at Shiloh to go to war against them.” (Joshua 22:11-12 CSB)

The time came in the conquest of Canaan when Joshua was able to dismiss the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh so they could return to their families on the east side of the Jordan River. They parted at Shiloh, but before these warriors crossed the Jordan they built a replica of the Tabernacle altar on the west side of the Jordan. There was to be only one altar. The Israelites knew that a second altar would offend God and would result in their being judged. So, they issued a call to arms and assembled the army at Shiloh. But, before they attacked, they sent Phinehas the priest and 10 leaders from the tribes of Israel to ask about this “treachery.” The leaders of the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh answered that they altar was not built as an altar to be used, but as a symbolic reminder that those tribes east of the Jordan were their brothers. They realized that the day may come in the future when later generations might forget that fact, so their purpose was to maintain their ties with their brothers in Canaan. They stated clearly that they would never worship another god or turn away from the Lord. Their answer averted war.

On a somewhat smaller scale, people sometimes get involved in conflict with one another. The conflict can be precipitated by an action of one which is not understood or is otherwise misconstrued by the other. It appears one way, while another truth could actually be at work. What we see in this example in Israel offers us some advice for helping us to deal with some conflicts.

First, if the action of another appears to be offensive, it is all right to “feel” offended and to express as sense of offense. It is possible that an offense was given, and we do not know until later whether it was or not. Immediately, however, it is all right to have the feeling of being offended.

Second, rather than “fly off the handle” with emotion and subsequent action, it is better first of all to allow reason an opportunity to work. We see this in Phinehas, who decided that it would be better to go see those on the east side and confront them with what they observed.

Third, evaluate what was observed in the actions of others by at least considering that what is seen may not represent the reality that is perceived. Give at least a little bit of “the benefit of the doubt” so that an evaluation is at least possible.

Fourth, express concern. Let the other party know that an offense has been perceived and why it is an offense.

Fifth, give the other party an opportunity to respond. The explanation could well resolve the issue altogether. If it does not, you will at least then know what the real story is, so that further decisions can be made based on the facts.
Communication is often the way to conflict resolution.

Father, Help us to learn from the wisdom of Phinehas and others like him so that we can find resolution to the conflicts we sometimes face with others. We ask that You will be glorified in this. Amen.

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