Trouble of one sort or another is the frequent companion of the children of God. Squabbles and conflict are likely in the most beneficial situations, as in the case of distributing charity in the early church (Acts 6:1) and the way the conflict is resolved says a lot about the character of those involved. We all make choices every day and it is those choices that determine our standing with God and our ability to get on with our neighbours. It is vital that believers ALWAYS choose the moral high ground but this is easier said than done. In this contemplation we examine conflict between two righteous, God-fearing men; Abraham on one side and Lot his cousin on the other. You will see how at every turn it boiled down to making choices; both good and bad. It is to be hoped that we may learn the lessons of resolving conflict in the Christian family in such a way that God is honoured and Christian ideals upheld.
The pertinent scripture here is Genesis 13:1-18 and as we proceed with this text let us bear in mind some necessary things that will help us along the way:
We are not enemies of each other, Satan is. Many people in disputes lose sight of this fact.
There is always a good and proper option. It often means we have to search diligently for it.
Judging by appearances can be self-defeating. And yet our impulse is to do this every time.
With these things in mind let us look at this topic under these various headings:
Compassion rather than contempt
Abram saw the need for courtesy
Sometimes disputes become very tense and heated but in every case courtesy is necessary for it sets the right tone for reasonableness as here displayed by Abraham.
Abram approached Lot with politeness, "And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren (Genesis 13:8). Here also Abraham the senior exhibited graciousness to his junior. It is very tempting for the elder to be pompous and arrogant, and at times dismissive, towards the lesser persons but Abraham was not that way inclined for aggression and arrogance were completely missing from his persona.
The hard lessons learnt from centuries of arbitration and conciliation is that the wrong approach can so easily scupper success. The Bible, as always, is right when it says, "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." (Proverbs 15:1)
Abram showed kindness
Abraham showed great consideration for Lot not wanting neither to hurt his feeling nor intimidate him into submission or concessions. Kindness is usually reciprocated and this too enhances the mood for better understanding. But Abraham went even further in as much as he made it easy for Lot to be satisfied. Hard choices have to be made sometimes, and you are compelled to stick with them, but here at the outset Abraham is being extremely malleable.
Abram's generosity was without rancor for he had such an abounding faith in God that he knew even if he got the worst of the deal he would still go on to much success.
Abram displayed unselfishness
So many disputes are ego-driven and ego-centric and both stand in the way of resolving issues. If we did not already know of the great character of Abraham here we would have an introduction for he gave Lot first choice to the pastures around them, "Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left." (Genesis 13:9)
Abraham was content to sacrifice good pastures for peace. This speaks to his noble priorities and shows that he had faith that God would see him through; his trust in God was deep and very practical.
Calamity instead of celestial peace
Lot chose the lush pastures
There was nothing wrong with Lot choosing the lush pastures and symbolically the easy life but choices have associations as Lot found out to his detriment. This was but the first step in Lot's decline as he aligned himself with degenerates.
He chose to please the eyes, "He looked up and saw that the whole plain of Jordan was well watered" (Genesis 13:10a)
He cherished memories of decadent Egypt, "like the land of Egypt, towards Zoar" (Genesis 13:10a)
He considered it worthwhile to head towards Sodom "So Lot chose for himselfand set out towards the east." (Genesis 13:11a)
He was leading his family towards disaster and was not aware of it.
He displayed a lack of spiritual sensitivity that he would come later to bitterly regret.
This behaviour is typical of some in the church because they have adopted a lifestyle of worldly choices and are at ease among wickedness.
Lot chose to live in Sodom
The most repulsive and abhorrent sexual practices are associated with Sodom and it is here that Lot chose to live. While it is true that you can reside anywhere and still live your faith it shows here that Lot was unconcerned or at least not too engaged with spiritual matters. Lot's choice indicated that he was prepared to permanently go:
Away from Abram and Godly practices
Away from the immediate strife but downhill all the way
Away from family cohesion and stability.
This was to lead to disaster for in the end, as bad choices usually do, he became a cropper when: He lost his wife and future sons-in-law (Genesis 19:14, 26)
He ended up committing involuntary incest (Genesis 19:33-36)
He almost lost his life (Genesis 14:12)
Lot chose a non-religious lifestyle
Lifestyle choices are very much part of what determine believer's character and Lot chose a non-religious lifestyle, one that he found comfortable and he immersed himself to the extent that he became one of the leaders.
He took on secular/political duties "The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city" (Genesis 19:1)
He was very well known but not respected by the town (Genesis 19:4)
He ended up offering his daughters to riffraff to save his face "Look, I have two daughterslet me bring them out to youand you can do what you like with them" (Genesis 19:3) What a tough choice for a righteous man, indeed the way of the transgressor is hard (Proverbs 13:15)
Conciliation and not conceit
Abraham took to the mountains
This behaviour of Abraham typifies someone with deep perception who can see beyond the present difficulty and know what is most beneficial going forward. This is the definition of a visionary and we should not wonder that God put so much trust in this man.
What a contrast to Lot as he renounced the best grazing land "Let's part company, if you go to the left I'll go to the right; if you go to the right I'll go to the left." (Genesis 13:9)
He took residence on the mountain at Hebron "So Abraham moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron" (Genesis 13:18)
Hebron at 3000 ft above sea level in the Judean hills afforded a different life to that in the valleys. It later became a city of refuge (Joshua 20:7) and a town for the Levites (Joshua 21:11) and with its giant inhabitants was given to and settled by Caleb (Joshua 14:13)
Abraham after making this pivotal choice received the reassurance of his inheritance "All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever" (Genesis 13:15). This reassurance bolstered Abraham's confidence, it motivated him and created perseverance and it spoke to God honoring his covenant. All of these benefits accrued because Abraham chose wisely.
Abraham took time to build an altar
In contrast to Lot Abraham included God in all his preparations " So Abram moved toHebron where he built an altar to the Lord" (Genesis 13:18) This reminds us that we must put God first in our priorities "But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33)
Abraham memorialized God, by boldly displaying his Godly affiliation in prime locations as here in Sichem (Genesis 12:6-7), Bethel (Genesis 12:8) and Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:2,9)
Abraham exalted God visibly as a lasting example for future generations; an example followed by Isaac (Genesis 26:25), the nomadic Jacob (Genesis 33:20), centuries later by Moses with the people of Israel (Exodus 17:15) and even later still followed by King David (2 Samuel 24:25)
Abraham took a walk through his possession
With these rafts of excellent choices God invited Abraham to, "Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you" (Genesis 13:17) Abraham did not hesitate but swiftly moved with complete resolve, "So Abraham moved his tents" (Genesis 13:18)
With delight and total satisfaction he basked in the shade of giant trees "and went to live near the great trees of Mamre" (Genesis 13:18)
At last Abraham found peace. For believers this is a fitting reminder of our assured inheritance and we can be confident that what God has promised he is able to perform. Our ultimate goal is heaven, "However as it is written, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1Corinthians 2:9) and we should motivate ourselves to think and act beyond the here and now.
Believers need to understand and take to heart the lessons from this clash between Abraham and his nephew Lot. We see Abraham acting with great humility and unselfishness preferring to let Lot have his way, even though as the patriarch and senior kinsman he had the right to choose first, and we notice Lot with no consideration for anyone but himself choosing his heart's desire; all that seemed pleasing and sensual. Abraham, looking at what was left chose the high ground; the hills of Hebron and the rest is delightful history. Let us remind ourselves that conflicts and disputes can be settled with dignity and honor, that in love preferring one another should be in word and deed and that God is pleased and rewards those who take the high ground. My wish is that God help us to be models of godliness in our entire activities one with another.
Note: Abram's name was changed to Abraham after Genesis 17:5
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013