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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Constructive Steps In Handling Conflict

Step One: Get the facts before you react!

Discord is in every corner of life: Marriage, work, politics, school, and the church. Even people with well-meaning intentions can create conflict. Just ask Joshua.

In the Old Testament (Joshua 22), God’s chosen people are united in serving Him. Aside from occasional spats, they remain united as they fight their enemies. Although they were twelve tribes, they worked side by side to conquer the land God had promised them. Though they are individual tribes, they work together as one nation.

Unity is always easier when groups work in tandem for a common goal. But in Joshua 22, we see that their harmony is threatened.

Following the promised land conquest, two and a half tribes returned to live on the east side of the Jordan. The other nine-and-a-half tribes (on the West side of the river) felt as if the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh had given up the faith.

But why did they assume these two-and-a-half tribes had deserted God? Had they forgotten how Joshua commended them for their faithfulness to God and loyalty to their fellow Israelites and their leaders (Josh 22:1-3)? Had they overlooked Joshua’s permission for them to return to their lands on the east side of the river?

The Reubenites, Gadites, and one-half of the tribe of Manasseh had not deserted their fellow citizens. Nor had they forsaken their commitment to God.

When Joshua sent them off, he instructed them to keep doing what they had already demonstrated — be wholeheartedly committed to God, remain faithful, and obey the law (instruction) Moses gave. They were to love God, follow him, keep his commands, hold fast to him, and to serve Yahweh with all their heart and soul. (Josh 22:5).

The issue was never whether they should have crossed back over the Jordan. Joshua had given his blessing, and Moses (preceding Joshua) had given them the land (Josh 22:7). The two-and-a-half tribes would have been disobedient had they not returned. They were still one with all of Israel when they returned to their land. The river may have separated them physically, but their hearts remained one.

So, what caused the riff? It was a building program. More specifically, the building of an altar.

The building of an altar may seem like no big deal. However, that one act prompted great suspicion. What was the intent of the two-and-a-half tribes? How could they so brazenly construct such an imposing altar? All of Israel understood that burnt offerings and sacrifices occur at the altar in Shiloh!

It’s easy to jump to conclusions, think the worst, and misread the intent of others. And here’s the first lesson we must learn in handling conflict: Get the facts before you react!

The nine-and-a-half tribes’ reaction suggests that they believed those living on the east side of the river were establishing a cultic site to rival Shiloh. They perceived the intent as a rebellious expression against YHWH. Their assumption encouraged them to see the action as a threat to unity. The westerners took the matter so seriously that they were ready to go to war (Josh 22:12)!

Here are some questions to consider.

  • How often do I jump to conclusions without knowing the facts?

  • Why am I inclined to read into things that I don’t know?

  • What’s one instance where my reaction was over-the-top because I was unaware of the facts?


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