New Apostolic Church USA

Be A Peacemaker

"Resolving Everyday Conflict: How to stop relational conflict before it starts" from the 2021 Spring Vision Newsletter

Let’s start by reading Genesis 13:

Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South. Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord.

Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.

So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.”

And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.

And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.” Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the Lord.

The bulk of chapter 13 recounts a dispute between Abram’s and Lot’s herdsmen, which Abram handles directly and with an approach that we can describe as magnanimous. In doing so, he resolves the conflict before it affects his relationship with Lot. Let’s explore what we can learn from this enlightening story of resolving conflict.

Center your life around God: Chapter 13 begins and ends with Abram building an altar to the Lord. Wherever he pitched his tent, he built an altar. This God-focused lifestyle allows Abram to approach conflict with grace and a genuinely magnanimous spirit. Magnanimous is defined as “generous or forgiving, especially towards a rival or less powerful person.” This is not a natural virtue. Our human nature normally wants nothing to do with characteristics like humility, meekness, forgiveness, or forbearance. Instead, we have to rely on our relationship with God, on His Spirit working in us, to display these virtues, especially in conflict.

Take the initiative: The conflict begins with the herdsmen, yet Abram takes the first step. So often conflict escalates because out of fear, pride, or selfishness, no one will take the initiative. That first step requires humility and fosters magnanimity.

Seek to avoid arguments: Abram’s words reveal his heart, “Please let there be no strife between you and me…for we are brethren.” He values his relationship with Lot above the conflict. Do you value your relationships more than being right? Than getting the upper-hand? A generous and forgiving attitude is necessary to avoid conflict.

Give up your advantage: Abram was Lot’s uncle, the leader of the clan, and wealthier; by normal standards he had every right to take the advantage in the situation. Lot owed everything to Abram for bringing him up from Ur (Genesis 11:31). However, that is not the position Abram took; instead he approachs Lot with brotherly affection as an equal. The Bible often appeals to us to treat each other with brotherly love because through Christ we are brothers and sisters:

  • Romans 12:10 - Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:9 - But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.
  • 2 Peter 1:5-7 - But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

“Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” On this occasion, Abram played no status card, and took no advantage, instead humbly guarding the peace with brotherly love by letting Lot choose first. He sought Lot’s interests over his own.

Accept the outcome with courage and trust God to provide: While Abram gives Lot the advantage, Lot shows no signs of deferment. In response to Abram’s magnanimous offer, Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere… like the garden of the Lord… Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan. Lot lifts his eyes to choose the best land, and the text does not even recount any words of gratitude; he chooses the Jordan plain and then journeyed east. Abram showed courage of faith, knowing that no matter what Lot chose, God would provide for him.

They separated, but their relationship was intact, due in large part to Abram’s magnanimous approach to the conflict. At this point in the story, God comes to Abram and tells him to lift up his eyes. While Lot looked to the things of the earth, Abram who fixed his eyes on God, was rewarded with a renewal of his covenant with God. Abram lost nothing by his generosity. His offer to Lot was possible because he was confident that God would continue to provide for and be faithful to him.

It might seem impossible for us to act as Abram did when we encounter conflict with those around us, in our family, our congregation, with neighbors. However, through the love of God that we have been given through the Holy Spirit, and the grace and forgiveness that we have been offered by Jesus Christ, we can in turn, treat others with the same love, grace, and forgiveness.

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