Summary: When conflicts arise, ask these two questions: What is at stake, and what is in your heart?
Two men who lived in a small village got into a terrible dispute that they could not resolve. So they decided to talk to the town sage.
The first man went to the wise man's home and told his version of what happened. When he finished, the sage said, "You're absolutely right."
The next night, the second man called on the sage and told his side of the story. The wise man responded, "You're absolutely right."
Afterward, the sage's wife, hearing all these, scolded her husband. "Those men told you two different stories and you told them they were absolutely right. That's impossible - they can't both be absolutely right."
The sage turned to his wife and said, "You're absolutely right."
Disagreements and conflicts are complicated. If they are simple, everyone would have made sense of the disputes. There won’t be conflicts to start with.
• There are however some things we can take note of, when a disagreement happens, so that we can navigate through it without making it worst.
I will suggest we ask ourselves TWO questions when a disagreement arises.
One is WHAT IS AT STAKE and the other, WHAT IS IN YOUR HEART.
The author wraps up the aftermath of Jephthah’s great victory against the Ammonites, by recounting to us a very sad event in their history.
• The men of Ephraim made an uncalled-for accusation against Jephthah: “Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you?” (12:1)
• Jephthah tried to set the record straight. “I did. I called but no one responded, including you. So I risked my life and fought the Ammonites myself. And the Lord gave me victory!”
“Now why have you come up today to fight me?” (12:3) Why are you so unhappy? That’s the million-dollar question.
• WHY are you picking a fight with me? The war is over. Our enemy has been defeated. We’ve gotten our freedom. WHAT IS AT STAKE HERE?
• The Ephraimites were so unhappy that they wanted to burn down Jephthah’s house and kill his entire family.
All this sounded ridiculous to us. Conflicts usually look senseless to onlookers, but not to the conflicting parties.
• The Ephraimites have forgotten who their real enemy is; who are they really fighting against.
• To the question, what is at stake? Frankly, nothing. The Ephraimites needs to REMEMBER WHO THEIR REAL ENEMY IS.
• What are you fighting for? Is it worth fighting for it? Distinguish between WHAT and WHO are you fighting against.
If we take a step back and look at the big picture, both parties are on the same side.
• One participated in the war, the other did not, but God gave the victory.
• They had a common and only ONE enemy, and that enemy had been defeated.
• The war was successful and the only thing left to do is to celebrate the freedom they’ve gotten.
So what is really at stake? Nothing is at stake.
• But if Ephraimites insisted on their way, something else would be at stake. Something more valuable than the war is at stake – their relationship.
• They broke the unity when they decided to fight against their own.
• You can win the argument and lose a friend. You can win the court case and lose your family. The issue may be settled, but something is broken.
The Ephraimites were distracted by another agenda, a selfish and sinful one. This inflated ego leads them nowhere but destruction.
• It resulted in the two groups fighting each other and 42,000 Ephraimites killed, unnecessarily.
I really do not know which caused the greater pain – the war against the Ammonites or the fight among their own people.
Is it the fight against Satan or the fight we see among fellow-Christians that grieves us more?
The 2nd question we need to ask is WHAT IS HAPPENING IN YOUR HEART.
Why are these men of Ephraim so unhappy? What is really driving them?
• It is not doctrinal differences, obviously. It has nothing to do with their belief in God or any faith issue. It is also not a military concern, because the war has already been fought and they’ve won.
• The reason they gave for their unhappiness was that they were not called in to fight (which Jephthah explained and disagreed).
• They were not roped in to fight, that was the accusation. (Frankly I think I would be happier not being involved . Shhh! Don’t tell them!)
And for that, I’m going to burn down your house and kill your family!