This chapter reveals the crumbling of a nation. First Ephraim refuses to join Jepthah in defending Israel’s territory against the Ammonites. Then they attack and threaten him for not including them. Then a series of judges follow for brief periods of time with no cohesion on unity among the tribes.
The enemy’s favorite strategy is to divide and conquer.
Isolating us over perceived slights or very real, but unintentional hurts, or even over intentional acts of cruelty all serve to further his objectives. God calls us to be unified, despite our diversity. In fact, our diversity and even our scars, make us stronger together than we could ever be alone.
Jesus advises us in his model prayer to pray that God would “forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The New Testament is filled with references to the importance of forgiveness:
“And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15
“So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Luke 17:3-4
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25
Our nation has never been in such a state of division. Instead of uniting around our similarities, and working to understand and resolve our differences, we are fracturing at every point of disagreement. Attacking people who have a different perspective will never change their perspective. Only spending time with them and providing them glimpses of your perspective will do that. But it’s not a quick fix. You can’t come into their lives and dump your truth on them and expect them to receive it and embrace it. You have to walk alongside them. You have to watch for opportunities to give them a peek into the truth you have lived your whole life. When you do, you expose your greatest vulnerabilities. You have to trust them that exposing your wounds to them won’t result in further damage. And sometimes it will. And when it does, you have to forgive them and continue walking with them. You have to bear your soul again and again and trust that the Lord is going to use your scars to change their heart. I have a friend who says, “Vulnerability is my superpower.” She’s right.