Open communication and repair work critical in stressful conversations

In Bible, Books, business, Community, culture, faith, familiy, leadership, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized on October 12, 2012 by mstevensrev

Patrick Lencioni and his consulting group the Table Group have great material that I have benefited greatly from.  The general concept of their work is that companies fail, not because they aren’t smart enough, but because they are not healthy.  Their goal is to lead organization (and people) to act in smart healthy ways.  A big part of this is open honest communication even when it it difficult.  These can be tense moments and adding to that is sometime you can be wrong even when being ‘honest’.  One friend of mine who is a teacher says, “I’m wrong 50% of the time, the problem is I’m not sure which 50%.”  This is where repair work comes in.  In spiritual terms this is called repentance when your error (intentional or unintentional) has been brought to light.  In psychological terms Dan Allender refers to this as putting your weapons down, an act much harder said then done.

Today I read a passage in the Bible that highlighted this for me.  It is from Joshua, the background is the nation of Israel has entered the Promised Land.  Amazingly of the twelve tribes that wandered the desert, one and a half of them decided not to enter the Promise Land.  I guess they were tired and felt like staying across the river and not fighting anymore battles in the Promised Land was the best option for them.  So they set up home away from the rest of God’s people.  After Joshua and the rest of the people had secured the land, they took a look back on the other side of the river, and to their surprise the one and a half tribes (Rueben and the half tribe of Manessah) had build a huge alter.

Joshua 22:10-12 And when they came to the region of the Jordan that is in the land of Canaan, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of imposing size. 11 And the people of Israel g heard it said, “Behold, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built the altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the people of Israel” 12 And when the people of Israel heard of it, h the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them.

The other tribes already ready for battle after many victories were pissed and ready to teach these people a lesson.  Adding to their frustration they had already had an incident of the disobedience of some folks worshiping other gods and sleeping with other women (The sin at Peor) that God had punished the entire nation for, and as the text says they were still recovering from that.  The were in a state of religious zeal ready to wipe out anyone not following God, especially their own.  This is a tense situation, probably more tense then any faced by the Table Group in a corporate setting.  Instead of just attacking the tribes sent these seemingly rebellious tribes a message:

Joshua 22:13-20 13 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, iPhinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, 14 and with him ten chiefs, one from each of the tribal families of Israel, j every one of them the head of a family among the clans of Israel. 15 And they came to the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, and they said to them, 16 “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 k in rebellion against the Lord? 17 Have we not had enough of l the sin at Peor from which even yet we have not cleansed ourselves, and for which there came a plague upon the congregation of the Lord, 18 that you too must turn away this day from following the Lord? And if k you too rebel against the Lord today then tomorrow m he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel. 19 But now, if the land of your possession is unclean, pass over into the Lord’s land n where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and take for yourselves a possession among us. o Only do not rebel against the Lord or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the Lord our God. 20 p Did not Achan the son of Zerah break faith in the matter of the devoted things, and m wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? And he did not perish alone for his iniquity'”

They decided to communicate before going to war, principle number one.  Then the seemingly rebellious tribes responded back:

Joshua 22:21-29  21 Then the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh said in answer to the heads of the families of Israel, 22 “The Mighty One, q God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! r He knows; and let Israel itself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the Lord, do not spare us today 23 for building an altar to turn away from following the Lord. Or if we did so to offer burnt offerings or grain offerings or peace offerings on it, may the Lord himself s take vengeance. 24 No, but we did it from fear that t in time to come your children might say to our children, ‘What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 For the Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you, you people of Reuben and people of Gad. You have no portion in the Lord’ So your children might make our children cease to worship the Lord. 26 Therefore we said, ‘Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, 27 but to beu a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we v do perform the service of the Lord in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings, so your children will not say to our children in time to come, “You have no portion in the Lord”‘ 28 And we thought, If this should be said to us or to our descendants in time to come, we should say, ‘Behold, the copy of the altar of the Lord, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifice, but to be u a witness between us and you’ 29 Far be it from us that we should w rebel against the Lord and turn away this day from following the Lord w by building an altar for burnt offering, grain offering, or sacrifice, other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before his tabernacle!”

The action of building this huge alter that was seemingly rebellious was actually the complete opposite.  Though the tribes did not start by proclaiming their righteous intention, they started with building the bridge.  God is God, if we did anything wrong let God allow you to destroy us.  Principle number two, bridges can be built from both sides.  Only then did they let their intentions (heart) be known.  The tribes built the alter, not to worship, but rather as a symbol.  As outsiders across the river they did not have access to the same worship as God’s people, they did not want to be forgotten by their brothers and cousins.  Principle number three, let your heart be know even if what you did may appear stupid.  Amazingly, though the other tribes were geared up for war…they listened:

Joshua 22:30-31 30 When x Phinehas the priest and the chiefs of the congregation, the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words that the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh spoke, y it was good in their eyes. 31 And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh, “Today we know that z the Lord is in our midst, because you have not committed this breach of faith against the Lord. Now you have delivered the people of Israel from the hand of the Lord”

The people of Israel, the battle ready warriors, listened.  Listening is principle number four. God was present, they acknowledge this and they saw that their assumption was wrong which they admitted.  This goes back to principle number two but also provides principle number four, it is okay to be wrong. 

Joshua 22:32-34  32 Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the chiefs, returned from the people of Reuben and the people of Gad a in the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the people of Israel, and brought back word to them. 33 And the report b was good in the eyes of the people of Israel. And the people of Israel c blessed God and spoke no more of making war against them to destroy the land where the people of Reuben and the people of Gad were settled. 34 The people of Reuben and the people of Gad called the altar Witness, “For,” they said, d “it is a witness between us that the Lord is God”

Admitting they were wrong the tribes put down their weapons.  At that point the conflict was closed and both sides moved forward in faith knowing that God is in control. Principle number five, trust is essential in order to move forward. This could have turn into a long drawn out theological fight on whether building the alter was the best action or they could have created committees to examine the communal effectiveness of allowing the alter to stand or they could have scolded the blood thirsty tribes who just put down their weapons for being warmongers, but they did not.  The moved on both sides trusting one another.

Here are two videos from Dan Allender related to conflict in marriage, but the application is much broader, I have embedded one of the two related to forgiveness.


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