Ever been misunderstood?
Misunderstandings are a part of life. If not handled well, they can create major messes in our marriages and ministries. That’s one reason I’m thankful for the incident recorded in Joshua 22. It’s a case study on how to handle misunderstandings in a wise way.
Here’s the short version of what happened: After finishing the conquest of Canaan, Joshua released the Trans-Jordan tribes (Gad, Reuben and half of Manasseh) to return to their land east of the Jordan River. On the way home, the Trans-Jordan tribes built an imposing altar near the banks of the Jordan.
When the Western tribes heard about the altar, they were incensed. They assumed their brothers had defected from the faith by defiantly building a counterfeit altar. So they mobilized their armies to attack.
Thankfully, before Joshua dispatched the warriors, he sent a delegation to investigate things further. Turned out it was all a big misunderstanding. The altar was not built for sacrifices but as a monumental reminder that the Eastern tribes were still part of the Israelite community. War was averted; peace was preserved.
What can we learn from this chapter about keeping misunderstandings from making a mess of things? Here are five lessons I want to remember:
Misunderstandings can happen among committed, faithful believers.
Misunderstandings in marriage or ministry are not always the result of sinful, selfish behaviour. As in Joshua 22, both sides can have admirable motives and be experiencing God’s blessing.
Without clear communication, misunderstanding can divide intimate allies.
This entire incident could have been avoided if the Eastern tribes had communicated the reason for their actions. We can create suspicion by failing to proactively explain our reasons, motives and intent to others. As someone has wisely said, people tend to be down on what they are not up on.
Before going to war, make sure you have your facts straight.
Before attacking (or even accusing), it’s a wise idea to do some asking.
Solving misunderstanding involves communication, humility and trust.
Rather than being offended by having our motives questioned or actions misunderstood, like the Eastern tribes we should be ready to clarify things. And like the Western tribes, we should be ready to trust the clarification we are given—unless we have compelling reasons not to do so.
Resolving misunderstanding is a cause for praising God.
Both the Eastern and Western tribes saw the peaceful resolution of this misunderstanding as evidence the Lord was with them (22:31). They responded with grateful praise to God (22:33). Resolving misunderstanding is a always reason for praising God.