We are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But it can be hard to live in solidarity with others, even with people we know we are tied to.
After the dust had cleared from all the fighting, Joshua told the tribes to go settle the lands allotted to them. On their way home, the tribes who settled east of the Jordan built a monument near the river so massive that it almost started a civil war. It was a simple misunderstanding, really. But after all we’ve seen in this book so far, it is not hard to imagine that everyone would have been on edge.
Here’s what happened. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the eastern half of Manasseh comprised the Israelites who settled on the east side of the Jordan. Everyone else settled on the west. If you’ve ever lived in a place divided by a river, perhaps it has been your experience that the neighborhoods on the other side seem further away than those on your side that are the same distance away.
That sense of being cut off would have been doubled for the Israelites who did not have the convenience of bridges. Reuben, Gad, and the eastern half of Manasseh didn’t want to feel cut off from the rest of their people. They didn’t want to be forgotten. And they, themselves, didn’t want to forget the rest of their countrymen to the west. So they built a large monument by the Jordan River—big enough for tribes on both sides to see from a great distance.
The tribes west of the Jordan mistook the imposing monument as a possible sign of aggression from the eastern tribes—as a boundary they should think twice about crossing. When the western tribes confronted the eastern tribes about this, they learned that the altar was not built as a symbol of division, but as a gesture of solidarity with their countrymen in Canaan.
It is easy to misread the intentions of others. Imagine the conversations the western tribes had about the monument the eastern tribes built, as suspicions arose and as they wondered if they were going to have to engage in a civil war after all they had just been through together.
Joshua’s instruction to the people in Joshua 22:5 is the same command God has always given His people: love the Lord with everything we have and everything we are. From this flows the command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Sometimes loving our neighbors well means risking difficult conversations in the hope of finding peace and clearing up confusion or conflict.
We all do things that can be misconstrued by others as being malicious. And every one of us has, at some point, misunderstood the actions of others—sometimes assuming the worst, only to find out later that our assumptions were way off.
The second greatest command, Jesus tells us, is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). What situation in your life warrants an awkward conversation? What would it take to risk that conversation in the name of peace and love? What will it cost not to?
Written By Russ Ramsey