Today I want to make a few brief observations from my last post, Battles of Misunderstanding, based on the narrative of Joshua 22.
- Be careful of assumptions
Not all actions will be as you see or perceive them. When Israel saw a great and imposing altar being constructed on the eastern banks of the Jordan, assumptions were made that almost led to a devastating civil war. Be careful of assumptions, they often lead to destruction.
- Be slow to act
Every great leader knows that swift action is often vital, but not always. Wise leadership discerns the times and leads with caution, knowing that not everything will be as it seems, and that ‘swift’ is not always a measure of success. Pause – pray – seek counsel – go.
- Stand face to face
Be wary of second-hand information. Phinehas took a delegation and found out for himself, voicing his concerns in person and hearing with his own ears the response. Swift actions, based on assumptions, built from second-hand sources, are a chefs-special reciepe for disaster. Whenever possible, seek personal clarification rather than second-hand interpretations.
- Allow candid discussion
Phinehas clearly stated how he felt about the altar that had been built. He didn’t couch his words in pseudo-relational jargon in an attempt to leverage diplomacy for his own sake. The action that had caused offence was clearly identified and the attached emotions clearly shared. When scripture exhorts us to ‘speak the truth in love’, too often we either speak in love with no truth, or speak truth with no love. We must allow candid, but Christ honouring discussion to take place.
- Listen, and listen well
Give the honour of listening well. Not listening with one ear while formulating your counter-attack, but true Spirit enriched listening. If, like me, you need extra help and grace in this dicipline, please read David Mathis’ excellent article, Six Lessons in Good Listening, over at the Desiring God site. Let me say it again, ‘listen, and listen well’.
- Prepare to be wrong
You have been wrong before, and you will be wrong again. Maybe you are wrong now. When Israel realised that they had acted on false assumptions, almost plunging the nation into civil war, Phinehas was ready to be wrong. Rather than stubbernly persisting with your assumed righteous position, are you able to plan for the fact that you may be incorrect? That you may need to change your course of action? That you may need to humbly tell a brother, ‘I was wrong. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” Pray ernestly that God will deliver you from the crippling need to always be right, and foster a gentle spirit within you that is ready to accept that you will often be wrong.