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This past week at a concert in Manchester England a terrorist bomb exploded killing 22 and wounding over a hundred.
Such disasters are mind boggling, and so what I’d like to do today is to look at how we can defuse situations before they turn into full-blown disasters. And while this attack in Manchester is beyond our scope of influence as individuals to defuse, we can however defuse the potential disasters that crop up in our lives.
And while we think these national and international disasters have little to do with how we live our lives, the reality is that they do. Our lives, like the lives of those around the globe are filled with difficulties and disasters, and like so many we’re just trying to survive. You see, not only is our lives continually encroached upon by violence perpetrated by others, but also the violence we perpetrate towards those who hurt us.
Now I thought about having you imagine what it would be like, but then I realized that most of us really don’t have to imagine. All we have to do is to remember.
So here’s the question, “How do we defuse these potential suicidal time bombs in our lives?”
In our text not only do we see the cause of these conflicts, but also the actions taken for their resolution.
Let me begin by giving you some background leading up to our text. Seven years have past since Israel crossed the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. Joshua has now released the tribes of Ruben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh from their obligation, which allows them to return to their homes.
What obligation? What happened is that these tribes liked the land on the East side of the Jordan River so much they asked Moses if they could have these lands and cities for their inheritance; instead of the land God wanted to supply on the other side, that is, the Promised Land, the land of Israel.
So Moses said it would be okay only if the fighting men from these 2 ½ tribes accompany the other tribes across the Jordan River and lead the fight against the inhabitants until their brothers received their inheritance.
And so, after the major fighting was over and all the tribes received their inheritance, Joshua releases them saying that now they could go home. But on their way they stopped on the West side of the Jordan and built a large altar. When the other tribes found out what they had done, thinking their brothers had transgressed the Law, they gathered together to go to war against the tribes of Ruben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh.
I think it’s safe to say a major conflict arose in Israel. But what caused it, and what did they do to resolve it, and what can we learn from this story to help avoid and resolve such conflicts that happen in our lives?
Before we look at this conflict there is a truism about all conflicts, and that is “It always takes two.”
It’s never just the problem of the other person, nor entirely their fault. We have to look at ourselves, because it may involve something we said or did that precipitated their action and words.
So what causes conflict? From our text there are two basic reasons, one from each side of the conflict.
1. Freedom Flaunting
This is what the 2 ½ tribes did.
And when they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan – a great, impressive altar (Joshua 22:10 NKJV)
Later on in the chapter they explained their actions saying,
“Let us now prepare to build ourselves an altar, not for burnt offering nor for sacrifice, but that it may be a witness between you and us and our generations after us, that we may perform the service of the Lord before Him with our burnt offerings, with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your descendants may not say to our descendants in time to come, ‘You have no part in the Lord.’ … Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord, and turn from following the Lord this day, to build an altar for burnt offerings, for grain offerings, or for sacrifices, besides the altar of the Lord our God which is before His tabernacle.” (Joshua 22:26-29 NKJV)
They weren’t building an altar to sacrifice upon; that would be a blatant sin; instead they built a memorial. Now there’s nothing wrong with what they did, rather it’s in how they did it. Yes they had complete freedom to build such an altar, but they never considered how it would affect the other tribes.
So why didn’t they say something, talk it over with the other tribes? Maybe because they thought they didn’t have to.
This is often a cause of conflicts today. We think, “I have total freedom to do this or that.” But if what we are doing offends or causes someone to sin, then that freedom really doesn’t exist.
Paul addressed this abuse of freedom in his letter to the Corinthian Church.
Beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak (1 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV)
Paul was talking about how those who were mature in their faith should be careful not to let their freedom cause others to stumble. He then calls it like it is; he said that it was nothing less than sin.
We don’t have the freedom to hurt or damage others. And so flaunting our freedom is one way that we promote conflict.
The second way we promote conflict has to do with what the other tribes did.
2. Conclusion Jumping
“Now the children of Israel heard someone say, ‘Behold, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh have built an altar on the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan–on the children of Israel’s side’” (Joshua 22:11 NKJV)
It then says that after hearing what these tribes had done, the rest of Israel gathered at Shiloh where the tabernacle resided in order to go to war with their brothers. Let’s look at the conclusion they made.
“Thus says the whole congregation of the Lord: ‘What treachery is this that you have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the Lord, in that you have built for yourselves an altar, that you might rebel this day against the Lord?” (Joshua 22:16 NKJV)
They did what most of us do; they added 2 plus 2 and came up with 5.
Someone fails to say hello to us, or they don’t call or return our call and we go off the deep end saying, “They don’t like us, care of us, or concerned about us.” We conclude they are unfriendly and rude.
It is said that perception is 9/10th reality. In other words whatever we perceive to be true must be, whether or not it really is. The problem with perceptions is the missing 1/10th of the equation. Because we don’t know the whole picture, we must be careful not to make conclusions based upon only the part we see or hear.
Now, causing conflict is the easy part. What’s difficult is taking the necessary steps to resolve the conflict. And what we see is that while both sides contributed to the conflict, they both did something to resolve it.
1. Go Directly to the Source
What we see happening is that instead of following their first inclination to go to war, the 9 ½ tribes went directly to the source.
“Then the children of Israel sent Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest to the children of Reuben, to the children of Gad, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, and with him ten rulers, one ruler each from the chief house of every tribe of Israel; and each one was the head of the house of his father among the divisions of Israel. Then they came to the children of Reuben, to the children of Gad, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, to the land of Gilead, and they spoke with them.” (Joshua 22:13-15 NKJV)
They sent a delegation to the 2 ½ tribes to find out the truth.
If I have a problem with someone, my responsibility is to go directly to them and work it out, not talk to others about it. When we go and talk to others and not to the person we’re having a conflict with, guess what, it’s called gossip.
Why are we so ready to listen to others? Why do we so quickly believe rumors? And why are we so quick to repeat them as if they are true?
When it comes to defusing disasters Jesus gives us the best advice. He said,
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother (Matthew 18:15 NKJV)
That is what the 9 ½ tribes did and war was adverted and unity restored.
The other step taken to resolve the conflict was by the other 2 ½ tribes, and it is something we all need to desperately learn.
2. Don’t Become Defensive
When confronted by the misperception, they didn’t get all bent out of shape, instead they merely conveyed why they made the altar. Look at what they said,
“The Lord God of gods, He knows, and let Israel itself know–if it is in rebellion, or if in treachery against the Lord, do not save us this day … we have done it for fear, for a reason, saying, ‘In time to come your descendants may speak to our descendants, saying, ‘What have you to do with the Lord God of Israel? For the Lord has made the Jordan a border between you and us, you children of Reuben and children of Gad. You have no part in the Lord.’ So your descendants would make our descendants cease fearing the Lord.’” (Joshua 22:22, 24-25 NKJV)
When confronted let’s follow their lead. Let’s not lash out and get all defensive. Instead of looking at them as enemies, consider them as friends.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Proverbs 27:6 NKJV)
And so what causes conflict is flaunting our freedom and jumping to conclusions. We resolve these conflicts is by going directly to the source and not becoming defensive.
There is one more step
How do we Avoid Conflict?
1. Pursue Peace
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18 NKJV)
The truth may very well be that those who are stirring up the conflict, and those who are allowing the conflict to be stirred up, remember it takes two, don’t have nor are they experiencing God’s peace.
If people tend to rub us the wrong way, or they’re constantly getting on our last nerve, or are not living up to our expectations; there is a good chance they’re not the problem, we are, and that’s because we’re not experiencing God’s peace.
Paul tells us,
Pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another (Romans 14:19 NKJV)
And so the first thing we need to do to avoid conflict is to pursue peace, but not just any peace, we need to pursue God’s peace so we can live at peace with others.
2. Walk In Truth
The Apostle John’s greatest joy was hearing how God’s people were walking in the truth.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth (3 John 1:4 NKJV)
When we walk in truth then we’ll give no place for gossip, we’ll not get sucked into the lies of Satan, and we’ll not allow vain imaginations to run wild. This is where truth is honored and where lies and deceptions are not tolerated, and that’s because truth liberates.
You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32 NKJV)
And so we need to pursue God’s peace, and walk in God’s truth, and then we need to
3. Learn To Love
If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11 NKJV)
Paul said the whole goal of instruction is love. (1 Timothy 1:5) Paul also said love gives honor to others.
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12:10 NKJV)
Love is more than a feeling; it’s a choice. It’s choosing to love, listen, and be patient and forgiving
Listen to Paul’s description of this love,
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)
And so first we’re to pursue Gods’ peace, next we’re to walk in God’s truth, and third we need to learn to love Gods way, and finally,
4. Have a Christ-Like Attitude
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7 NKJV)
If we want to avoid disastrous conflicts we need to have the same attitude that Jesus possessed.
• He didn’t demand His rights; rather He willing gave them up. We see this when He prayed, “Not my will by Your will be done.”
• He also had the attitude of a servant, which we see when he washed the disciple’s feet.
• And in complete humility sacrificed Himself for others as He went to the cross.
And so if we want to avoid conflicts we must be daily growing more and more like Jesus.
But isn’t about imitation; rather it’s all about making it a habit. It’s not about mimicking; rather it’s about letting Jesus live in us and through us. Only then will conflicts lessen.
Violence is invading all our lives, and conflicts are an inevitable part of life. So in order to survive,
• Let’s follow God word and begin to defuse these potential disasters before they blow all out of proportion.
• Let’s choose to pursue what is right and true.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study