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Vol.  10  No. 5 May 2008  Page 13
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Adam BlaneyAssumptions

By Adam Blaney

    “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ…So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Romans 14:10, 12-13).

    “Did you hear what so and so is doing over there?” “I can't believe they are standing for that!” “I heard that they were doing ________.” We’ve all heard similar statements, and regrettably, many of us have made them. They seem simple and harmless, but with a simple flip of the tongue like this, an individual, a family, a church, etc. is labeled with a bad reputation or name; regardless of the truth, it is all based on what someone said. What a shame for things like that to happen. What an even greater shame when Christians speak such things of other brethren!

    A similar thing happened in the land of Canaan in Joshua 22. After the people were finally able to inhabit the Promised Land and began to settle in their respective areas, the tribes of Reuben, Gad and ½ of Manasseh took their place east of the Jordan, as opposed to the other 10½ tribes west of the Jordan. After some time, we are told in verse 10 that the eastern tribes built an “impressive altar.” That’s it! No more info is given at this point! After the building of this altar, notice the happenings in the West. “Now the children of Israel heard someone say… ‘[they] have built an altar’” (Josh. 22:11).

    Armed with that simple little bit of info, the same amount we know at this point, notice the western tribes’ reaction. “When the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered together at Shiloh to go to war against them” (22:12). From this little bit of info, the entire nation assumed the worst and decided that war was the only answer. They wisely decided that first it would be best to send some leaders to really find out what was going on. However, instead of going to inquire, it seems they came with the same bad assumption and began to rebuke and revile the other tribes: “What treachery is this you have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the Lord…that you may rebel this day against the Lord?” (22:16). Not only did they rebuke them for this “treachery,” but then began to concoct a scenario where their building this altar would surely mean death and demise of the entire nation. All of this was done without the tribes ever getting a chance to explain themselves. When finally allowed to give an explanation, they told that the altar was simply built to remind them of the sanctuary of God. They didn’t want their children thinking that because they were across the Jordan, that they weren’t a part of the Israelite people. The reaction from the West was, in essence, an “Oh, I guess that’s ok,” and the leaders went home having now understood the altar.

    There are a few lessons we could learn from this story. (1) Get the facts before you act! The first time they heard what “someone had said,” they assumed the worst and had written the eastern tribes off as rebelling against God. It is a shame how often this happens among us. Christians should know and display a better attitude, and not allow rumors to shape our perception of our brethren. (2) New or different doesn’t always mean bad. When they heard of the building of an altar, it was something that was different and new, and immediately they wrote it off as an act of rebellion. As a result, they spent time, energy and stress over something their brethren were doing in good conscience, purity of mind and for a good purpose—all without going against the teaching of God. When others among us do things that seem unique or different to us, let us not write them off as rebels, but rather investigate their actions. Just because the practice is not something we may have always done, does not mean it is wrong. If the practice is consistent with the teachings of the Word of God, then it is surely not wrong. Many things we do in our service to God were new at some point (i.e., songbooks, sound systems, Bible class material, teaching aids, even church buildings). Remember new doesn’t always mean bad. It is easy to question the wisdom of this decision, however, the brash actions of the westerners were unlike what God expected of them, and unlike what God expects of us today. Rumors and quick tempered judgments tear down the reputations of others. Shame on us, if we practice such action in regard to anyone, especially in regard to those with whom we share a common faith.

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