Civil Wars and Fights in the Produce Section

Civil Wars and Fights in the Produce Section

Ah, yes, the “C” word. Conflict. We all deal with it. Some of us run from it. Some of us thrive on it. Some of us deny it. Some of us love it. We all handle it differently. We all share in that unique human experience in some way.

My wife and I have different ways of handling conflict. When the conflict involves both of us, one of a few things happen. One, we’ll shut the door to our room until we work it out. That’s usually the least exciting of the options. Two, we’ll both go jogging and forget the whole thing exists. Three, I’ll turn on the T.V., bake some chocolate chip cookies, brew some Starbucks Sumatra blend, and totally check out. Meanwhile, she’s in the kitchen trying to make sense of my behavior while steam pours from every orifice in her body, wondering if I’ll ever notice that she’s the reason the smoke alarm is going off. Well, that might be a bit exaggerated, but you get the idea.

Recently I was reading the book of Joshua and I came across a passage that is all about conflict resolution. Just from a very peripheral reading of it, I was able to pick out about 6 really basic observations and principles of conflict resolution that might help you the next time conflict is breathing down your throat.

It’s found in Joshua 22. Here’s the story in a large nutshell. The 12 tribes of Israel had just received their allotted portions of the land of Israel. 3 of the tribes had land on the eastern side of the Jordan River – Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh. To make for easier reading we’ll call them GRM, add a few letters just for fun and we get GRaMps. The other 9 tribes had land west of the Jordan. These other nine, Simeon, Asher, Naphtali, Dan, Issachar, Benjamin, Ephraim, Judah and Zebulun, we’ll call SANDI BEJZ, like a license plate which reads “Sandy Beaches” (I should write my own Bible Code). Anyway, so after helping Sandy Beaches get their land, GRaMps returned home to claim their part. This sets the stage for the conflict. Which brings us to the first observation.

Observation 1: Conflict will often happen following a great victory.

It’s like clockwork! So, be ready for it. Joshua had just led God’s people through months of fierce battles in order to claim the land that God had given them. They were basking in the thrill of victory and just around the corner conflict was waiting.

As GRaMps was returning, they decided to erect an altar to the Lord as a memorial to what He had done. They figured that it would be a good way to remind their children later on about what the Lord had done and how they belong to Him (v. 24) – a noble thing, no doubt.

However, when word reached Sandy Beaches, things went south. Their translation of the event went something like this: “GRaMps has erected an altar. I’ll bet your sweet bippy that they’re offering sacrifices to idols and false gods” (or something to that effect). In short, they had a misunderstanding on their hands.

So, Sandy Beaches immediately armed themselves for battle (v.12) and marched against GRaMps intending to wipe them off the map for their apparent rebellion. Come again?! Yea, they were about to have a civil war on their hands. They were about to enter a Middle Eastern conflict of astronomical proportions. This wasn’t your grandma’s conflict with the produce manager at Harris Teeter. This was huge. This thing was dangling over the chasm of civil war. This thing was like a Porterhouse in the cave of bad news bears. It was about to be bad. So, as soon as Sandy Beaches had marched up to GRaMps, they immediately brought their accusation.

Observation #2: Don’t jump to conclusions.

Verses 16-20 would have been completely obsolete had Sandy Beaches just allowed GRaMps to speak first. Jumping to conclusions usually means that #3 is also true.

Observation #3: Even the purest of motives can be misunderstood.

Throughout their accusation, Sandy Beaches used words such as “treachery”, “rebellion”, and “unfaithful” to describe what they thought of GRaMps. They assumed that wrong motives were involved, when in reality, nothing could have been further from the truth. GRaMps was acting out their faith in Yahweh through the only avenue that seemed appropriate at that time and they were still misunderstood. Sandy Beaches assumed there was a heart condition that needed fixing. They assumed wrong.

Observation #4: Hear Out Both Sides.

Finally, GRaMps was given the chance to explain what was really going on. Beginning in verse 21, GRaMPs explained their true intentions – that they were simply building an altar to the Lord as a memorial.

Observation #5: The motives of the accuser may be pure as well.

What’s interesting about this story is that we don’t find anywhere that Sandy Beaches was necessarily in sin for a wrongful accusation against GRaMps. Their motives seem to have been pure as well. Verse 33 says that the Israelites “were pleased with the report, and they praised God.” You can almost hear the relief in their voices. They were thrilled that their brothers were still walking in faithfulness to the Lord. And that’s exactly what they wanted to hear.

Observation #6: Retaliation should never be an option.

If GRaMps were more like me, verses 21-22 would read something like, “The Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh answered the leaders of the Israelite clans by raising their fists in the air and crashing them down hard upon the faces of the Israelites all the while hurling horrific vulgarities and calling down curses upon them and their children and their children’s children and their children’s children’s children . . .” You get the point.

But that’s not at all what happened. In fact, their response in verse 22 so totally contradicts the realm of reason, that you may have to do a double take like I did. The first words out of their mouths were, “The Lord is the God of gods! The Lord is the God of gods! He knows, and may Israel also know.” What!? Did I read that right? There was no “Shut up and let us talk!?” Or “You’ve got the wrong freakin’ idea so get your oozy out of my face!?” Nope. None of that. They simply opened their mouths and glorified God as the only true God. They opened their mouths and recognized God’s omniscience in the situation. And by acknowledging his all-knowing mind, they were in effect saying that God was their vindicator. He would exonerate them. He knew their hearts. He knew their motives. He knew their intentions. And He knew where their loyalty lay.

Remember that God is your vindicator. Psalm 26:1 says,

Vindicate me, O LORD,
for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the LORD
without wavering.

And Psalm 72:4 says,

He will vindicate the afflicted among the people . . .

So, the next time an army of several hundred thousand soldiers knocks at your door with guns pointed at your face, just remember what 3 small tribes did in the face of 9. And pray a lot.