Clear, honest communication and a willingness to listen, not just speak, clears up all kinds of problems — and prevents disaster. Assumptions, false accusations, gossip, and division will otherwise result in a hostile environment and war inside the camp.
But while they were still in Canaan, and when they came to a place called Geliloth near the Jordan River, the men of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh stopped to build a large and imposing altar. The rest of Israel heard that the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had built an altar at Geliloth at the edge of the land of Canaan, on the west side of the Jordan River. So the whole community of Israel gathered at Shiloh and prepared to go to war against them. First, however, they sent a delegation led by Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, to talk with the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. In this delegation were ten leaders of Israel, one from each of the ten tribes, and each the head of his family within the clans of Israel. When they arrived in the land of Gilead, they said to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, “The whole community of the Lord demands to know why you are betraying the God of Israel. How could you turn away from the Lord and build an altar for yourselves in rebellion against him? Was our sin at Peor not enough? To this day we are not fully cleansed of it, even after the plague that struck the entire community of the Lord . And yet today you are turning away from following the Lord . If you rebel against the Lord today, he will be angry with all of us tomorrow. “If you need the altar because the land you possess is defiled, then join us in the Lord ’s land, where the Tabernacle of the Lord is situated, and share our land with us. But do not rebel against the Lord or against us by building an altar other than the one true altar of the Lord our God. Didn’t divine anger fall on the entire community of Israel when Achan, a member of the clan of Zerah, sinned by stealing the things set apart for the Lord ? He was not the only one who died because of his sin.” Then the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered the heads of the clans of Israel: “The Lord , the Mighty One, is God! The Lord , the Mighty One, is God! He knows the truth, and may Israel know it, too! We have not built the altar in treacherous rebellion against the Lord . If we have done so, do not spare our lives this day. If we have built an altar for ourselves to turn away from the Lord or to offer burnt offerings or grain offerings or peace offerings, may the Lord himself punish us. “The truth is, we have built this altar because we fear that in the future your descendants will say to ours, ‘What right do you have to worship the Lord , the God of Israel? The Lord has placed the Jordan River as a barrier between our people and you people of Reuben and Gad. You have no claim to the Lord .’ So your descendants may prevent our descendants from worshiping the Lord . “So we decided to build the altar, not for burnt offerings or sacrifices, but as a memorial. It will remind our descendants and your descendants that we, too, have the right to worship the Lord at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices, and peace offerings. Then your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no claim to the Lord .’ “If they say this, our descendants can reply, ‘Look at this copy of the Lord ’s altar that our ancestors made. It is not for burnt offerings or sacrifices; it is a reminder of the relationship both of us have with the Lord .’ Far be it from us to rebel against the Lord or turn away from him by building our own altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings, or sacrifices. Only the altar of the Lord our God that stands in front of the Tabernacle may be used for that purpose.” When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community—the heads of the clans of Israel—heard this from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, they were satisfied. Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, replied to them, “Today we know the Lord is among us because you have not committed this treachery against the Lord as we thought. Instead, you have rescued Israel from being destroyed by the hand of the Lord .” Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, and the other leaders left the tribes of Reuben and Gad in Gilead and returned to the land of Canaan to tell the Israelites what had happened. And all the Israelites were satisfied and praised God and spoke no more of war against Reuben and Gad. The people of Reuben and Gad named the altar “Witness,” for they said, “It is a witness between us and them that the Lord is our God, too.”
Joshua 22:10-34 NLT
We are to be peacemakers, not people eager to go to war — not eager to spread gossip based on assumptions and accusations that may be false.
Do you know what the Lord has told another man to do unless you ask them?
Would you have condemned and gossiped about Abraham if you saw him taking his son up the mountain to sacrifice him?
Do you know the heart of a man is or his underlying reasons unless you ask them?
Would you have gossiped about Jesus letting a prostitute touch him, wash him, and kiss His feet?
Why do you insist on looking at your coworkers, your neighbors, your family, your friends, and even those strangers you pass by each day and make assumptions and accusations against them unjustly in your mind and in your gossip?
Why do you look at others whose skin tone, language, or nationality does not match your own and make assumptions about them and treat them differently in your own thoughts?
Can we see the alternative solution play ot in or mind if the very first Israelite who saw their brother tribes building an altar had just walked up and asked with genuine interest, “What are you doing and why?”
Instead of making assumptions, and whispering gossip amongst themselves, and stirring each other up towards east with their own brothers, what if they were lovingly bold enough to just communicate before allowing any seeds of false assumptions to spring up as weeds of false accusations, gossip, opposition and division?
Haven’t we been making those same mistakes ourselves?
And when someone asks us about something, do we become self defensive and offended that they are communicating clearly and lovingly and boldly instead of making assumptions about us?
Are we hiding something because we aren’t willing for the truth to come out — the very thing the Israelites were afraid was happening to their brother tribes but that wasn’t true in this story — and wouldn’t it be best for us to be honest and forthright with ourselves and with others about what we ate doing and the underlying reasons why we are doing them?
Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said. Then Peter told them exactly what had happened. “I was in the town of Joppa,” he said, “and while I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. Something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners from the sky. And it came right down to me. When I looked inside the sheet, I saw all sorts of tame and wild animals, reptiles, and birds. And I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.’ “‘No, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure or unclean. ’ “But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’ This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven. “Just then three men who had been sent from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry that they were Gentiles. These six brothers here accompanied me, and we soon entered the home of the man who had sent for us. He told us how an angel had appeared to him in his home and had told him, ‘Send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He will tell you how you and everyone in your household can be saved!’ “As I began to speak,” Peter continued, “the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”
Acts of the Apostles 11:1-18 NLT
I’m usually involved with more than one church and ministry group — and many times, the different approaches to worship, or the different traditions, or the different outwardly visible words and actions of one group seems to be disturbing to another group “because it doesn’t look like how we do it”. But rarely do people, even those in ministry, care enough to ask and listen.
The default, natural response, seems to be to make assumptions from afar, build accusations with insufficient evidence, spread gossip and rise up division, and seek to tear each other down.
But for the grace of God, we would all just be biting and tearing at each other, fighting or way through the rat race of life, stepping on whoever we could in order to climb just one step higher.
Lord, overcome this natural tendency in us to be prideful, selfish, envious, and divisive — replace it with your spirit that is holy, loving, kind, gentle, forgiving and self controlled. And do it for your glory and honor. Amen.