“Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle.” Joshua 22 v 29
It’s so easy to misunderstand what people do and their reasons for doing it! The East Bank tribes of Israel built what they saw as a memorial, but the West Bank tribes saw it as setting up an altar for another religious centre, a seriously divisive action. They were even prepared to go to war over it. (v 12) But first a group of senior leaders from the West Bank are deputed to visit the East Bank and confront the issue – and they appear quite belligerent initially. But then the true picture emerges and the two sides are reconciled. It’s a marvellous example of how to handle what could have been an explosive issue!
What is more, it tallies precisely with what Jesus has to say about dealing with such matters in Matthew 18 vv 15 – 17. Apparent hurts and misunderstands between Christians need to be confronted rather than swept under the carpet and allowed to fester.
This kind of confrontation is never easy. We all too often try to be ‘sweetness and light’, and pretend the issue does not exist. Comes the smile, the pretence – and inevitable coldness in the relationship. Much better to handle it openly; real love is tough love that recognises the value of openness and integrity when problems arise. Many longer-term problems are caused by the shortsighted view that play-acting or plain dishonesty will heal a rift. Churches, and other Christian relationships, are situations where reality and integrity, mingled with compassion, must prevail if people are to grow together in love. The outcome, recorded in v 33, is great! ‘They were glad to hear the report and praised God. And they talked no more about going to war against them ..’ All sorted!
For reflection: Is there anything lurking in your past or current experience that needs to be dealt with in this way?
Are you prepared to act?