How quick we can sometimes be to judge others and assume the worst of them.
In the Bible, there is a perfect example of this towards the end of the book of Joshua.
The land had been conquered and shared out among the tribes. The River Jordan was a dividing line between three of these tribes and the others. These three tribes constructed an enormous altar – an imposing monument that was visible for miles around. They built it with the intention that it would be a sign of solidarity with their fellow countrymen living on the other side of the river. Unfortunately, the other tribes did not view it that way – and, as a result, civil war was imminent.
It was a simple misunderstanding, and, following some intense discussions between the tribes, they avoided the risk of war. You can read the full story in Joshua 22!
But there is a warning and reminder here for us today.
Sometimes we may misconstrue the actions or words of others – even those of good friends, colleagues, or neighbors – and view them as malicious or threatening.
In such situations, we can so quickly leap headlong into battle without seeking clarity about the other party’s thoughts or motives. At these times, we fail to have the hard conversations that are needed to provide a path to mutual understanding and peaceful resolution.
Families, organizations, churches, communities, can be dragged into an unending cycle of conflict and division as a result. We treat friends and neighbors as enemies. Pain and hurt are an inevitable consequence.
We should each heed the words of Joshua:
“But be very careful…to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.”Joshua 22:5
So, how do we need to “build bridges” with others on the “other side of the river” today?
What conversations – even difficult ones – need to be had?
When and how might we be “writing our own stories” by misinterpreting the intentions of others?
Take a step back from jumping into battle. Pray. Identify who the enemy is – and isn’t. And respond in a way that honors God – by walking in obedience to Him.