October 6, 2008

Putting Out the Fires of Frustration

Ah, the Whispering Elephant...the "dainty morsel"...the cancer of gossip. For far too long it has run amuck in our midst. Yesterday we talked about the need for the people of God to grab this unity-killer by the scruff of the neck and toss him out the back door. Gossip has NO place in the body of Christ.

This morning I was reading in Joshua 22 where Joshua blesses the Eastern tribes (Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh) and finally allows them to return home. They have served the rest of the Israelites and it is now their turn to take their land, their families, and their tribes and make a home for themselves. But something interesting happens when they're exiting Canaan - they build an altar. This seems harmless, right? What's the big deal? Well, the rest of Israel hears about this - in other words, they got 2nd and 3rd hand information - and they were furious, gathered everyone together, and "prepared to go to war against their brother tribes." Apparently, this is about to get really ugly, really fast!

But some smart, level-headed, rational person (or group of people) suggested, "Maybe we should send a delegation to talk to them and find out WHAT they actually built and WHY." What a genius! So this delegation crosses the river and lets the people have it - they hit them with the "How dare you's" and "What were you thinking" and then someone finally shut up long enough to let them explain. "...let all Israel know...that we have not built an altar for ourselves to turn away from the Lord...but as a memorial." Oh....uhhh....right. Well....carry on then!

In all seriousness, even though this "delegation" appears to have approached with a bit of an assuming attitude, they came nonetheless. And THAT is the point. The Israelites got this bad information based on someone's ill-conceived idea of WHAT their brother tribes were doing and WHY and spread it to the people. They were ready to go to war and throw down judgement and wrath in one fail swoop. There wasn't going to be anymore of this rebelling against the Lord and placing all the people in jeopardy. But instead of acting any further on assumption - instead of passing on this "fire of frustration" and allowing it to escalate into a full fledged inferno - they went to the source. They did the right thing. They acted with integrity and allowed the people whose integrity, character, and actions were in question to answer and defend themselves. And thousands of years later, we can all thank God! And hopefully learn from their courage.

"Today we know the Lord is among us because you have not sinned against the Lord as we thought. Instead, you have rescued Israel from being destroyed by the Lord." And they never would have known this if they had let the gossip go one step further!

So the question for us is, will we allow the people of God - the Body of Christ - to be torn down and torn apart because we fan the "fires of frustration"? Or will we put our foot down and demand that if it doesn't "build up" that we're not going to "put up" with it any longer, from ourselves or anyone else?

Remember: the Whispering Elephant is really just a BIG FAT CHICKEN! 

Proverbs 29:11, 26:20-22

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