One of the biggest flaws with we humans is how quickly we judge others. It doesn’t take very long. In fact, one study says you decide if someone is trustworthy or not within 1000 milliseconds. Before you know their story (or even their name for that matter) you have already looked at their face and judged their character. That’s unfortunate for people like me who (as I’ve been told) have a “resting angry face.”
This kind of judgment destroys our relationships pretty quick. I’ve been in scenarios where I can’t properly talk to people because they have perceived me in one way and refuse to see me in any other. Even if I express a legitimate concern with loving and kind words, they somehow come across condemningly when filtered through their eyes. Likewise, I’ve done the same thing to others. Something they do throws me off and now I can’t seem to remove everything they do down the road from that one experience.
We give people one chance, and then it’s over. And often, we don’t even approach them about the original thing they did that upset us, so it just festers and makes them look like a monster.
There’s a story in Joshua 22 that demonstrates this pretty well. Three different tribes of God’s people have just been assigned the land that they will live in and once they move in, they build an altar. When all of Israel hears about this, they’re offended. The only altar to God is in the tabernacle, what are they doing building another one? Is it to another false god? Have they turned away?
You can imagine how quickly the rumors spread between the thousands of people found in the other tribes. Without approaching these 3 tribes to ask why they built it, they instead gathered together to prepare for war. They then approach them and list off a bunch of accusations before they’ve even given them a chance to speak.
It almost sounds ridiculous, though we do the same thing, don’t we?
Now their concern was fair. People at the time turned to false gods often and the altar in the tabernacle was the only place Israel was to make sacrifice, so if they were violating the rules, it needed to be addressed. But did they really need to prepare for war first?
It ends up that the real story was understandable. The land that these 3 tribes had been assigned to was divided from the rest of Israel by the Jordan river. Their fear was that their children would be told down the road that they weren’t really a part of God’s people because they were geographically separated from the rest. So the altar was there to be a memorial of sorts to the fact that they too, were a part of God’s people and to protect their children from ever thinking otherwise. They were never going to use the altar to make any sacrifice—it was just a visual reminder to all of Israel.
After hearing the explanation, everyone was good with it. But sometimes, our hearts are too hard to listen and nothing can get through to us and everything someone does is filtered through our anger or hatred towards them. Who are those people in your life? How can you begin to undo that in your mind? Jesus tells us to fix those relationships and to do it quick:
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 ESV)
I know a pastor who tried this before everyone tithed once. Guess where one of the longest lines was? Right in front of him. Probably not too uncommon for us pastors.
Pursue love and let the hatred go.