A War Averted, Part 2

Then the people of Israel sent to the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and with him ten chiefs  (Joshua 22:13-14a).

Thus says the whole congregation of the Lord, What is this breach of faith that you have committed against the God of Israel in turning away this day from following the Lord by building yourselves an altar this day in rebellion against the Lord?  (Joshua 22:16)

No, but we did it from fear that in time to come your children might say to our children, What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel?  (Joshua 22:24)

In the previous post in this series we looked at how our interpretations of the actions of others often lead us into conflict.  We saw a biblical example of this in Joshua 22 where a misunderstanding led to the threat of war.  In this post, we will begin exploring how the Israelites responded and what steps they took to resolve their conflict.

First, we notice a very wise response.  While emotions were high and they were ready for a fight, cool heads prevailed and they chose dialog instead of warfare.  They sent a delegation, headed by Phinehas, to discuss the matter of the altar before drawing conclusions about its purpose.  

As we listen in on their conversation, we see some very important steps that need to take place in every difficult conversation if the issues involved are going to be resolved.  

Notice how many questions are asked in verses 16-20.  Often when we go to confront, we assign intent and then blame.  When we blame, we are making statements.  But by turning their concerns into questions, the delegation  was really asking the two and a half tribes, “Is this how you see it?”  They were inviting the eastern tribes to tell their story.  And then they were willing to listen.  

By doing this, Phinehas and his delegation learned that the eastern two and a half tribes built the altar for completely different reasons than the remaining tribes could imagine.  By allowing them to share their concerns, it was much easier for them to see that there was another story that made sense of the situation.  It was only through entering into conversation and listening, however,  that they were able to learn of these concerns.

So when you are headed into a difficult conversation, avoid blaming and make room to ask questions and learn the other person’s story.  We can do this by saying something like, “This is what I’m seeing and it appeared to me that you were _______.  Am I seeing this correctly?”  Then be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).  

In the final post, we will look at some other elements every successful conversation needs.

Read the first post in this series here: http://graceinracine.com/2016/10/a-war-averted-part-1/

Jim Murray and his wife Jean are members. Jim has served as an Elder and currently serves as a Life Group leader and member of Peacemaking Team.