The Right to Disagree

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Sometimes we make life more difficult for ourselves than we need to.

The Hebrews arrived within striking distance of the land God had promised to give them (Numbers 13:2). They say that, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” and Moses was no fool. He sent out spies to check out this new land. He knew that even though God had given them Canaan, those who lived in the land would not just lay down their arms and surrender themselves at the first appearance of an invader. A representative from each tribe was chosen (13:3-15) and off they went to gather information that would encourage them and also help them plan their strategy (13:17-20).

When the spies returned the reviews were mixed—heavily on the negative side. The land was productive. They described it as a land flowing with “milk and honey” (13:27) and it took two men to carry a single cluster of grapes (13:23). But the cities were fortified and the people appeared fearsome (13:28).

Caleb and Joshua were the only voices that proclaimed to possible to take Canaan. “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it'” (13:30).

The majority prevailed—but the majority was wrong.

Most of us have often heard that believers need to be unified, that the work of the Lord does not move forward unless everyone agrees. Ephesians 4:3 and 13 are often quoted to back up this statement.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:3) leads into a discussion of what Christians believe doctrinally. This thought is completed as the chapter goes one and Paul discusses what the pastors and teachers of the church are supposed to be doing. Their job is to: “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ…” (3:13). Again the emphasis on unity is connected to doctrine, to what we believe about God, Jesus, the Scriptures etc. In those things there can be no deviation because God has told us clearly what we need to believe. The passage does not refer to opinions about other matters.

Caleb and Joshua were right—even though they were a minority—because they knew what God had said, and they believed God even before they believed their eyes as to the size of the opposition in the land of Canaan. They were right to have spoken up even though they were expressing something that was in disagreement with the other ten men. The spies who were the majority were the ones in the wrong. The price of following the majority would be forty long years of wandering in the desert when they could have been enjoying the fruit of the promised land.

If it is what God has clearly said: Defend it, even if you are the only voice.

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