There's a story near the end of Joshua that has always struck me as, well, odd. It's in Joshua 22. The verses that really draw it out are
The Eastern Tribes' Altar of Witness
10 And when they came to the region of the Jordan that is in the land of Canaan, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of imposing size. 11 And the people of Israel heard it said, “Behold, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built the altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the people of Israel.” 12 And when the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them.
Let's think about this. The people of Israel that have grumbled and complained against God. That, before much longer, will turn away from God completely for a little while, are currently ready to go to war over the construction of an altar by people within their own nation!
We're going to be real quick to be judgmental here. It seems woefully immature to go off attacking your own people over an altar they've built. Especially when you find out that the East Side Tribes (those that lived on the east side of the Jordan River) built it to remind themselves and the West Side Tribes that they all serve the same God.
Yet we do the same things. We find small details of behavior or finer points of doctrine or even just the labels we attach to ourselves. Then, we attack. We attack over ridiculous things. Without seeking the heart, without examining the real situation.
Part of the reason for the East Side Altar was fear over the attitude of West Siders, yet do you see the West Siders considering the possibility? No, they immediately assume the worst of their own brothers, their fellow God-worshippers!
In what ways do we strap on swords to attack within our own churches, our own circle of believers? We have got to learn to focus on what matters the most: the worship of Almighty God and spreading His word so that, since "At the name of Jesus every knee will bow," people have the opportunity to start bowing now and not face judgment for not having done it.
It's time to stop having these arguments that, if we were watching from outside, our response would be "Surely you can't be serious! Arguing over that?"
We need to get serious about what matters.
And stop calling me Shirley.