“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” Psalm 133:1, NIV
As a father of three sons, you might imagine why I delight in this verse. They actually do very well together, but we have seasons that require a little more of that creative problem-solving for conflicts. We are in one of those seasons now. Caleb and Joshua are fifteen months apart, and Joshua has joined Caleb in middle school this year. What I see at the root of their conflicts is a failure to think of the other’s perspective.
My initial response was one of intervention – jumping in and imposing “solutions.” However, once I realized that we had just as many conflicts, I tried a different approach. I asked them to establish a contract so that they have terms for handling their differences. It’s not perfect, but it’s working because they have conditions that they both agreed to meet. And when you can operate in unity with another, you can accomplish more than you can imagine and God is glorified.
FORGETTING WHAT IS BEHIND
The only other Old Testament reference to “unity” in my concordance takes place in 2 Chronicles 30. This chapter gives us the story of Hezekiah orchestrating the celebration of the Passover, and is a truly beautiful chapter worthy of your time.
Here’s the background: Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, was a wicked king who not only robbed the Temple, but also shut the Temple’s doors. (“Thanks for the legacy, Pops.”) But Hezekiah did not walk in the path of his father. Instead, he purified the Temple (2 Chronicles 29) and then set about the goal of celebrating the Passover. Stop and think for a minute: what is the purpose of celebrating the Passover? It is to remember and honor the Lord and what He has done. So what Hezekiah was doing was forgetting the legacy of his dead father, and honoring the legacy of his Living Father. That point is not to be missed.
Hezekiah sent out messengers to Israel and Judah (two kingdoms at this point, and Israel had just been attacked by Assyria – i.e., a dysfunctional family where big brother just got beat up and now little brother, with a crazy dad, wants everyone to get together for Thanksgiving). Oh, and one more thing – it was a month late because they were not ready with enough priests (“Hey everybody, can we do Thanksgiving dinner in December?) Not surprisingly, not everyone jumped at the chance: “but the people scorned and ridiculed them” (verse 11).
But remember the purpose? To honor God. Well, look who shows up: “Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord” (verse 12). And because the Lord was there, the celebration was amazing! There was a feast, singing, instruments, and offerings to God for seven days! And then, because they were having such a good time, they all agreed to celebrate for seven more days! (We have so much to learn from the Old Testament about how to party.) Where were those who didn’t want to join the party? Right where they were left when they turned down the celebration.
INVITE THE RIGHT ONE
Hezekiah had an uphill battle. There were generations of a fractured family in play. His own father had ruined the celebration before. Israel had just been attacked. The celebration was not going to be on the regular date. And even in the celebration, there were many who participated without being purified. Hezekiah recognized that, prayed, and The Lord “healed the people” (verse 20). It’s kind of like saying, “God, I know they’re a mess – they didn’t wash their hands and have awful manners, but aren’t we glad they’re here?” That’s grace.
It’s exactly the point Jesus makes several times, including in Mark 7:9, “You have a fine way off setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” How true. We establish a way that things should be, and turn down invitations of grace. Or we have our own little party of one and refuse to invite others to the table (that’s a lonely dinner).
We can learn from Hezekiah. Not all the details were right, but he invited the right One. He made the purpose to be all about God, and made God the Guest of Honor. Because he did so, they had a glorious celebration.
Think about the areas or persons where you are experiencing conflict right now. Who’s agenda is important? Yours? There’s a good chance that if you break the conflict down, it would sound a lot like this: “I want turkey; you want ham, so forget it!” Take a step back and ask yourself if you remembered to invite God into the situation. Don’t miss out on a celebration in unity because you want to be right. Hezekiah’s family was a mess, but they were still family. Not everyone showed up, but I promise you that they heard about it when their cousins came back two weeks later!
When Caleb and Joshua were working out their contract, Joshua initially refused to sign. At one point Caleb asked if Joshua could “just sign it.”
“Caleb, isn’t Joshua sleeping?”
“Well, yeah, but..” (I guess I know which son will wait until I’m sleeping to ask for the car keys.)
What my sons are doing is a work in progress, and I constantly remind them that they would not have these conflicts if they truly thought of the other’s best interest. I remind them because I see it. I see it because I have it. I want my way. But my way might be a dinner for one. Your situation could be the same. In your desire to be right, you might be cutting yourself off from a celebration with your spiritual brothers and sisters. If God is invited in AND is the guest of honor, I think that’s somewhere you will want to be.
Lord, help me to pause today. Help me to listen so that I can hear as you hear. Please pour out your grace upon my struggles. I want your name to be honored, Lord, and for my will to align with yours in every situation. Thank you for loving us in our mess. Amen.