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Many Christians are masters at conflict-avoidance. Perhaps we confuse “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) with “blessed are those who avoid unpleasant situations.” But conflict and confrontation weave their way throughout the fabric of the Bible.
As the children of Israel prepared to cross the Jordan River for the first time, they faced literal warfare. But first they had to fight a figurative battle that threatened the nation in a different way. The tribes of Gad and Reuben owned “vast numbers of livestock” and wanted to stay in the pastures on the east side of the Jordan (Numbers 32:1).
Moses immediately questioned their motives. “Do you intend to stay here while your brothers go across and do all the fighting?” he asked. “Why do you want to discourage the rest of the people?” (vv.6-7).
The leaders of Gad and Reuben could have wilted in the face of a powerful man’s anger. Or they could have reacted spitefully. Instead, they replied, “We simply want to build pens for our livestock and fortified towns for our wives and children. Then we will arm ourselves and lead our fellow Israelites into battle” (vv.16-17).
Moses then laid out the specifics for how the tribes would move forward. They responded, “We, your servants, will follow your instructions exactly” (v.25). And they did.
When confronted with disagreements, we tend to vacillate between dishonest niceness and sinful anger. Both extremes are wrong. Jesus never shrank from confrontation. He did, however, pray for our unity even as His crucifixion loomed.
Conflict is inevitable. When it comes, may it point us to the selfless honesty of Jesus and His path that leads to lasting peace. —Tim Gustafson
I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you (John 17:21).
What does Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-26 reveal about the depth of unity He sought?
Why do you sometimes avoid conflict? How can you honor God and live a healthier life in Christ by the way you face it?
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