Fixing Relationships Requires Faith
Many of us have relationships in active conflict. We are not at peace with a person or group of people and it is not going away. They may have hurt us greatly and we are not over it. We may have hurt them. The point is that there is no harmony between the parties and we are called to live at peace with all men. More than that, Jesus says that those that bring peace to this world, the peacemakers, shall be blessed. They shall be called sons of God. This is something we all desire as Christians.
But what if a relationship is so broken, we can’t see how to fix it?
In these circumstances, if we really want peace to reign, there may be a simple solution. Follow the example of Abraham when dealing with his often troublesome nephew Lot. When faced with a relationship problem between them that looked to be growing worse, Abraham put his trust totally in God for a resolution. He followed God and sought peace even when it required sacrifice.
In concept, it will be easy to understand. Abraham just acts like Jesus, really. It is in the execution where we get hung up. It is in the doing that our pride and fear get in the way.
The flesh is the enemy to restored relationships.
Follow Father Abraham’s Example
Abraham is an amazing man. God calls him from his homeland one day and sets him on one of the most important journeys in all of history. God tells Abraham he will be the father of a great nation and that is enough, Abraham is onboard. He follows God, sometimes imperfectly, for the rest of his life. Abraham is considered a founder of two of the great religions of the world, Christianity and Judaism and is important in a third, Islam. There are billions of people who look up to Abraham, with good justification. His life is hugely impactful for one simple reason. He follows God. Look what Hebrews says about Abraham:
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Abraham Walked by Faith
Abraham trusted God and this made him extraordinary. Faith made him special. He looked forward to the city whose builder and maker is God. Isn’t that a wonderful way to walk through life? Abraham knew that this life is temporary and what awaited him was so much greater. Like Paul, he ran his race with the goal of reaching the finish line and winning. He did not focus on the race itself. This faithful focus on the unseen made seemingly hard decisions on earth easier. We see this very clearly at a time of brewing conflict within his own family. It was a time where we see Satan subtly trying to tear God’s people apart. Yet, Abraham’s humility and faith restored peace to his family.
Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.
8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? 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.”
A Seed of Compromise Bears Bad Fruit
When God called Abraham out of his home country, He said to come out and leave the house of your father. This is one of Abraham’s steps of faith that were imperfect. Abraham left Ur and the literal house of his father but decided to bring parts of his house with him, his nephew Lot tagged along. This decision likely did not appear harmful when he made it, but it causes Abraham no end of problems as Genesis goes on. Abraham fights a war to save Lot, he has to appeal to God to save Lot in Sodom and generally has to deal with Lot’s failings interfering with his call from God.
When we are chosen by God to carry out our calling, we can justify all sorts of deviations to ourselves. We are saved from a life in a land of idolatry like Abraham, but sometimes we can’t bear leaving all of that life behind. “It is just Lot coming along, what harm could it do?” may have been Abraham’s thought. His descendants, the Israelites, left their physical possessions behind in Egypt but carried their desire for the things of captivity with them. Their hearts were divided and this causes no end of trouble. When we do this, we are effectively mixing our tares among God’s seeds of faith. God’s plan will always be carried out but we will have to deal with the weeds that were never meant to be sown in our lives.
Abraham’s Relational Conflict
In Genesis 13, a dispute arises when both Abraham and Lot’s households are being blessed by God. Yes, even God’s glory given to man can cause us to turn on each other. Abraham and Lot are growing wealthy because of God’s goodness lavished on them. The expanding families start rubbing up against each other, likely over things like grassland or other practicalities, causing friction. Money, power, and ease tend to infiltrate the hearts of men and turn them against one another. It doesn’t seem to have reached Abraham and Lot yet, but there is trouble brewing. We may not have sheep, but we likely have seen families torn apart over who will inherit from Mom and Dad or similar issues. The things that God intends as a blessing often get twisted by man into something divisive.
Abraham Trusts in God to Solve His Problems
Abraham acts decisively to make peace. He doesn’t avoid the issues or hope they go away. He takes on the ripples in the pool before they become waves to protect God’s people. This is a wonderful example in itself. But it is how Abraham resolves the tension that is so great for us to take note of. Simply put, Abraham lets go of his stake in the conflict, humbles himself and trusts God completely to fix the problem. Look again at what he says to Lot:
So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? 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.”
Do we see what Abraham chooses to do? He sees there is conflict and quarreling between the two groups, likely over resources. He identifies the problem clearly. He knows that it is not likely to get better doing the same things. Rather than argue over blame, he knows something needs to change so he takes Godly action.
Godly Conflict Resolution Requires Humility
First Abraham lets go of the conflict and humbles himself. As the elder in the relationship and uncle to Lot, Abraham was entitled to deference and respect from Lot. Lot should have been the one to ask his uncle for guidance and to meet his desires. Abraham is also the one called by God Himself. The temptation for Abraham had to have been to tell Lot exactly what is what! “Do you know that billions of people one day will call me Father Abraham? How dare you?”. What is more, he had the right to do so in the culture. Abraham was not in the wrong. Yet, what does he choose to do? He lays down his rights before Lot and allows him to choose the outcome that fixes their problem. Peace in the family of God is more important than being seen as right so he puts the choice in Lot’s hand. God certainly is not confused as to who is acting in a Godly manner so Abraham doesn’t fight for a man to admit the same. God’s judgment is enough.
Humility Relies on God in Charge
Based upon what we know about Lot, Abraham’s humility could be seen as foolishness. It could be argued that this is confirmed by Lot’s response. Look at what Lot does when given the choice:
Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt.
He looks at what was the best land and chooses it for himself. Yet, this land turns out to be the home of Sodom, a land so filled with iniquity that God destroys it with fire and brimstone. It is land that looks like Egypt, a name which is always associated with teh world in the Bible. We are supposed to come out of Egypt and Lot chooses Egypt. Abraham had to be kicking himself, right? Lot got all of the good land! No, not at all.
In humbling himself before him and giving Lot the choice, what did Abraham really do? Abraham trusted God to take care of him and direct him where he should go rather than where Abraham thought he should go. This is conflict resolution according to God.
Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness in a Conflict
Abraham knew that there was a conflict to resolve. He may have known Lot’s character and that Lot would choose what he thought was the best land. He may have known it would get Lot in trouble. Abraham may even have known that it would cause an immediate problem for him. But Abraham also knew God and His heart towards Abraham. He knew that regardless of Lot’s decision and any problems it causes, God would take care of Abraham. God would provide better land for him according to God’s plan. God would provide more pasture and water. God would replace any losses caused by Lot.
He relied on the promise of God that God would what?
He would exalt Abraham, as God promises, because out of love and seeking peace Abraham humbled himself. In doing so, he avoided the breach that was forming in the family. All it took was trusting in God. Abraham sought first the Kingdom of God. In doing so, Abraham also provides us with a good preview of His Master who was to come. 490 years later Jesus let go of His side of a conflict. Man rebelled against God and was the consistent enemy of God from the time of the fall. Jesus choose to seek out His opponents, lay down His rights and His rights to give us a choice to repair our broken relationship. He gave up everything to come to us and bring us back into harmony. It is ultimately Jesus’ example that Abraham followed and which compels us.
God Blessed Abraham
We know from the rest of Genesis that a contrast of sorts develops. God blesses Abraham greatly. Lot seems to repeatedly get himself in trouble. Abraham walks by faith. Lot seems to walk by sight. Trust and humility versus self will at work. But Abraham does not know this pattern when he chooses humility and faith. He trusts God to fulfill the promises He made to Abraham and to be the God that he knows. Are we doing the same in our lives?
Our Turn to Trust
Do we have a broken relationship in our life? Is God speaking to us through Abraham’s example? Are there ripples on our pond of life that are threatening to turn into waves? Do we need to resolve a situation in life with someone?
As far as it is up to us, live in peace with all men. It may be this is God calling us to handle the “as far as it up to us” portion of restoring the relationship. He may be calling us to go with open hands and a vulnerable heart and offer humility to the other person. We may not be able to force them to make a good choice with what is being offered, free will prevents this certainty. But we can humble ourselves like Abraham without fear knowing that God is in charge of the outcome. He will exalt us even if the other person remains defiant. The other person or group may flat out reject us. They may reinforce their anger with us. They may make a bad decision with the grace that we offer to them – look at what Lot did. Yet, their decision is not the motivator for our conduct. Abraham spent his life looking forward to the city whose builder and maker is God? What motivates us?
Seek first the Kingdom…