Genesis Day 39: Dealing with Conflict
Do you like conflict? Most people don’t.
It often shows up when you are not expecting it. It’s not that you are unaware of the tension, it is just a matter of timing when it comes to a head.
How do you handle it? How does the Bible tell us to handle it?
Some people think Christianity, with our famous “turn the other cheek” verse, means that followers of Jesus are “door mats” – that aggressors merely wipe their feet on us.
I can be guilty of letting a situation fester. You know, when something is wrong, and I don’t bring it up. I know my tendency and so I need to be intentional about engaging conflict. You might wonder if that is in accordance with the Bible.
There are verses in the Bible that tell us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom 12:18).
How exactly do we do that? Is it by avoiding conflict? The short answer is, No! This episode with Abraham is instructive to that end, and it will lead to something remarkable.
The story starts with Abimelech showing up at Abraham’s place. Plus, he brings the commander of his army, Phicol. Interesting that he brought the commander of the army!
You may remember Abimelech. Back in chapter 20, this is the king that Abraham and Sarah lied to regarding their marriage. God spoke to Abimelech, and disaster was averted.
Now, seeing how God has blessed Abraham, they ask him to swear that he will be at peace with them, and Abraham does. I imagine Abimelech remembers how Abraham once lied to him. He wants real assurance, and Abraham obliges.
But, the next thing that happens, is Abraham complains about a water well.
Fascinating. Abraham doesn’t wait. He does not delay the conflict. Is he trying to “pick a fight”?
No, I believe he realizes that if he lets the situation fester, then the entire treaty could blow up.
“Keeping the peace” often involves the hard road of resolving conflict.
I said earlier that I have to intentionally engage in this sort of open confrontation. I learned years ago that when you don’t deal with relational problems, the price for solving those problems always goes up. It never goes down. Long-lasting peace require relationships of honesty.
Abraham and Abimelech found their way through a tough situation back in chapter 20. They continue this rather remarkable behavior.
Abraham cements the understanding that the well is his with the offering of seven lambs. Not a large amount of money, but an important gesture.
Abraham names the location, Beersheba. You name things you own.
I mentioned that the result of confronting this conflict yields a remarkable result—that remarkable result is that Abraham, the wandering nomad, now owns a piece of land.
Abraham now owned a small part of the land God had promised him. By granting Abraham rights to a well, Abimelech had made it possible for Abraham to live there permanently and had acknowledged his legal right, at least to water. In other words, after so many delays the promises of land and descendants at last seem on their way to fulfillment.
He plants a tree that is known for its long life and he calls on the name of the Lord with a new name, El Olam, Everlasting God. That name is only used here, in this verse. Perhaps Abraham has found God to be what He has promised long ago to Abraham.