“I Just love conflict!
said no one.
We all avoid it. We’d rather put up with someone, overlook what might be rightfully ours, or look the other way at a grievance, just to avoid the stickiness a confrontation would bring. While it is wise at times to turn the other cheek, to overlook a transgression for the sake of love, there are times/situations that demand a confrontation.
I was encouraged recently to read what sort of seems like a little side story in the life of Abraham. In Genesis 21 we read the beautiful answer to Sarah and Abraham’s long-awaited prayer request – the birth of their son, Isaac. God “did as He said He would do.” What a God!
Then the chapter moves on to tell about a little “sticky situation” that involves Abimelech the King and Abraham. We read about it beginning in verse 22. See the bold verse to read about the conflict.
And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest:
23 Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.
24 And Abraham said, I will swear.
25 And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away.
26 And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing; neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to day.
27 And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.
28 And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.
29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?
30 And he said, For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.
31 Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.
32 Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.
33 And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God.
34 And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines’ land many days.
Wells were very important because water was scarce because Canaan had no significant rivers. A well had been dug on Abraham’s land. It was rightfully his, but it had been taken away. I find in this passage some good advice when dealing with a conflict.
- Approach the situation under the control of God’s Spirit and not in your flesh. Abimelech told Abraham in verse 22, “God is with you in all you do.” He didn’t come with an angry spirit. His attitude made it obvious that he was walking with God.
It’s sometimes hard to get our emotions in check, but we will be received so much better if we will be walking with God so that we come with a peaceful, loving spirit.
- Ask questions, rather than making an accusation. A question will soften the heart, but an accusation hardens the spirit. It appears that Abraham probably asked Abimelech about the well because of his response in verse 26.
Saying, “You always,” or “you never!” will only make a person bristle up and be on the defensive. Asking a question like, “It seemed like this is what you were saying, am I correct?” is so much softer than telling it like you assumed it was.
- A loving gesture, such as a gift will pacify anger. Abraham gives a generous gift to Abimelech. He gave sheep, oxen and lambs. The gift was to prove that the well did indeed belong to Abraham. It was kind of like a consolation prize! It sealed the deal they made. The matter was taken care of and this was proof.
The gift is not to be a bribe. This is a gesture of love and given with a heart to mend the wrong.
Years ago I had a neighbor who was just a mean-hearted woman. She was offended by my husband by something that was totally innocent on his part. We tried and tried to explain and make amends. Finally one day the Lord put something on my heart that I could do for her and I decided to make one more attempt at breeching the situation.
Because she kept her young grandchildren every day, I thought she might appreciate some toys my girls had outgrown. I knew her grands would enjoy these toys that were still in great condition, so I boxed them up, along with a loaf of bread. I crossed the street, my heart pounding. When her husband opened the door I asked if I could speak with his wife. He looked quite surprised, but went and got her. She came to the door in a huff. I quickly offered her the box of toys for the children. She started to resist, but I implored,
“I’d love for your grandchildren to have these. They’re all cleaned up and in perfect condition.”
She finally did reach out and take them. I assured her that we truly wanted to be friendly neighbors and were here for her, should she ever need us.
That was the last time I spoke with her before we moved. Though we were never “close friends,” I’m thankful that the last time we had a conversation, it was a civil one, and that I had done what the Lord prompted me to do in an attempt to mend any offense.
Sometimes the conflict will be mended, as it was in Abraham’s case. Sometimes, as happened in my case, only our own heart will be mended because we did what the Lord required of us in this difficulty.
When it was all said and done, Abraham Called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. One commentator said,
Even through this time of conflict in his family and among his neighbors, Abraham kept a real, live walk with God. Conflict did not drive him away from God, but he allowed it to push him closer to the LORD
Your conflict can do the same thing for you! Just keep walking with the Lord.