In December 2002, I took a trip to England to visit some friends from seminary who were living there for a year. They had just moved to England that summer so that my friend, Jim, could be a pastor in the British Methodist Church. This was an amazing opportunity for this newlywed couple and I was thrilled to be given the chance to visit.
I had never been to England and now was my chance. Free place to stay, another friend to travel with, and I would get to ring in 2003 in London. I was ready to go!
A month prior to my visit to England, I began dating Andrew, a wonderful man who I had known since elementary school (who later becomes my husband). But when it came time for the trip, I had to explain to Andrew that I was traveling to England with another guy. Not something you like to hear when you have only been dating a month. Even though I told him there was no way I was interested in this guy as anything more than a friend, I could tell that Andrew wasn’t so sure.
When we arrived in England we stayed in London for a few days. My friends actually lived several hours north of London. Our plan was to spend a few nights there so we could ring in the New Year before heading back up to their small British town. My cell phone did not work in London. Back then we didn’t have smart phones (or at least I didn’t) so I could not access my email to contact Andrew. I had no communication with him for several days. It wasn’t until we got back to my friend’s house that I could email him.
When I returned from my trip, I was so happy to see Andrew and he was so excited to see me. Andrew explained to me, though, that when I got on that plane a week earlier, he thought that was it for our relationship. Traveling with another guy and not hearing from me for several days, made him jump to the conclusion that I no longer was interested in him. And we know from the outcome that he made the wrong conclusion!
At some point in our lives, each of us can say that we have jumped to conclusions about something or someone. We don’t have all the facts, yet we are hasty and rush to draw a conclusion, believing with all our heart we are right.
And don’t we all like to think we are right?
Your answer to this is yes. (You know I’m right about this!)
But what usually happens when we jump to conclusions?
We are often times wrong.
We listen to gossip, we are influenced by social media, we think that everything reported on the news is fact, we rely on past experiences to lead us to make assumptions, we stereotype people based on their looks, we are looking for conflict so we immediately think the wrong thing. So many different types of situations lead us to be conclusion jumpers.
And friends, this is not a good thing.
When we jump to conclusions, this usually ends in conflict. We allow the anger we feel to take control of us and lead us to make rash decisions. Much like it did so many times for the Israelites.
.In Joshua 22, the time comes for the Eastern tribes to return to the land they were given by God. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the Half-Tribe of Manasseh asked Moses many years earlier if they could settle on the east side of the Jordan River and not cross over into the Promised Land. God allowed this but said that these tribes had to cross over with all of Israel and fight with the other tribes for their land. They agreed and fought for many years.
When the time came for them to go back to the land God had given them, Joshua gave a speech reminding them of a few things:
“Take good care to observe the commandment and instruction that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, and to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)
With this speech fresh in their minds, the Eastern tribes got up to the Jordan River ready to cross, but before they did, they decided to make an altar…a big one at that. When the other tribes heard about this altar they were furious and ready to go to war against the Eastern tribes. They assumed that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the Half-Tribe of Manasseh made an idol and were worshiping it, going against the Lord. They jumped to the conclusion that these Israelites had done a bad thing by making this altar. They didn’t have all the facts, but from what they could see, this was not good.
And guess what?
They were wrong.
They were not building an idol, but were doing the exact opposite. They built an altar as a reminder for them and for all the tribes of Israel that they love the Lord and worship Him only. They called this altar “Witness”, which was a witness between them that the Lord is God. (Joshua 22:34)
When we jump to conclusions, we are letting anger and bitterness control us. We assume that we know it all and that our conclusion is right. No matter what the situation, we need to pray about it, asking God to give us wisdom. If it involves people, we need to talk with them before we start spreading rumors that are not true, which just makes the matter worse.
If the conclusion we jump to happens to be right, then we need to remember to show grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person. How would you want someone else to treat you if you were in their shoes?
In this story of the Israelites, the tribes in the Promised Land showed mercy and did not go to war with the Eastern Tribes. And the Eastern Tribes decided to show grace and forgiveness by not getting upset with the other tribes for thinking the wrong thing. They could have easily gotten mad and gone to war with them, but they did not.
May we avoid jumping to conclusions, but instead remember Joshua’s word to the Israelites, “love the Lord your God, walk in all His ways, keep His commandments, hold fast to Him, and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)
These are wise words to live by.