Originally posted May 8, 2017
If we aren't careful, we can sometimes be individualistic to our approach to our faith. It's true that justification comes by God's grace through our faith alone. No one can believe for another person. Faith isn't genetic either - it can't be transferred down a family line by way of biology or any other physical means. Justification by faith is an individual endeavor, but sanctification, a vital part of the totality of salvation and our mission to the world, is not. As Christians, we are called to:
- Not hold grudges against each other (Leviticus 19:18)
- Help a brother in need (Luke 3:11)
- Love one another (John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:7-8; 1 Peter 4:8)
- Honor one another above our own self (Romans 12:10)
- Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
- Bear with one another (Ephesians 4:1)
- Love not just in words, but in action (1 John 3:18)
And there are several other passages that I could list. The Bible reminds us over and over that Christians are called to grow together. Growing together often means struggling, battling, fighting, and rejoicing together. A Christian cannot make it through this life on a spiritual island, rather "as iron sharpens iron" (Prov. 27:17), so we sharpen each other.
A great example of this is the little known story of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe Manasseh. As Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness in the Pentateuch, he records a specific account in Numbers 32 in regard to the land distribution in the Promised Land. While all of Israel was still east of the Jordan River, wandering the wilderness as God had caused them to due to their sin in Numbers 13, the Reubenites and Gadites requested to have the land east of the Jordan as their inheritance. This land had already been conquered and was apparently good for livestock. Both tribes had lots of livestock and saw this plot of land as being ideal. The implications of this request were that they would not have to cross over the Jordan to the west side and battle with the nations who inhabited that land. Life would be good for the three tribes: plenty of land, no Jordan-crossing, and no war.
However, the other nine tribes would have to battle on the west side of the Jordan in order to obtain their land. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh had a choice to make. They could be content with their good fortune and enjoy their land while their brothers went out to battle. They could have opted to not get involved with the troubles ahead for the other nine tribes. It isn't their concern, right? One might even argue that this is the safe and, therefore, right thing to do. Why risk your own neck when you already have what you need? "I'll stay in my land and worry about my own life; you cross the Jordan and handle your own business," they could have said.
Isn't that how we sometimes handle our relationships with our Christian brothers and, quite frankly, everyone else? As believers, we are far too often content with staying in our lane, only concerning ourselves with our own affairs. We become like the invitees to the Wedding Feast of Matthew 22 in which we are too busy with our own "farms" and "businesses" to participate in the movement of God's kingdom (22:5).
Thankfully, this isn't how the story of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh go. Moses charged them to cross the Jordan and fight alongside their brothers saying, "Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here (Num. 32:6)?" And with an admirable nobility, they agreed to stand beside their brothers and fight - risking their safety and their lives on behalf of their brothers: "...We will take up arms, ready to go before the people of Israel, until we have brought them to their place...We will not return to our homes until each of the people of Israel has gained its inheritance" (Num. 32:17-18). And the Lord blessed them exceedingly for their commitment to their brothers. In Joshua 22, after the conquest was completed, Joshua expresses his gratitude from the Lord for their love and instructs them to "Go back to your tents with much wealth and with very much livestock, with silver, gold, bronze, and iron, and with much clothing. Divide the spoil of the enemies with your brothers" (Josh. 22:8).
The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh sacrificed a position of serenity and comfort in order to bear the burdens of their brothers, risking their lives to battle alongside them. And they were rewarded abundantly for it! Isn't this what our faith is all about? We are most like Christ when we are self-sacrificial - helping each other to the point of risking our own detriment for the sake of benefiting our brothers. I hope that this is where our faith takes us going forward. We must reject the temptation to live in isolation, believing that our faith is our own personal journey. It isn't. We grow most when we are willing to stand with one another in the midst of the most difficult battles - even unnecessary battles in which most would be perfectly content with standing on the sidelines rather tan lend a helping hand. Let's be like Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh and fight alongside each other for the sake of the Kingdom.