Summary: An Expository Sermon from Genesis 21:22-31 concerning handling conflict and bulding better relationships. Genesis Series #44

Genesis Lesson # 44 April 14, 2002

Read Genesis 21:22-31

Introduction: There are many stories about people who get into fights and conflicts about crazy things and the terrible results.

In Orlando, a 48-year-old man was shot to death by his wife after a fight over the satellite TV controls.

In California, a man was stabbed to death by his girlfriend because he brought home a McDonalds ham, egg, and cheese bagel instead of the two Egg Mcmuffins that she’d asked for. (Husbands, let that be a lesson to all of you -- get it right!)

In Dallas, a 37-year-old man was beaten to death by his roommate after a fight over the thermostat setting in their house.

In Maryland, a 15-year-old boy has been charged with in the shooting death of a man who was playing reggae music on his car stereo. Apparently, the boy really hates reggae music.

Source: Sermon “Building Positive Relationships”

Although these are extreme cases and responses, it can be difficult maintaining positive relationships with others. As Christians we will have times of conflict; sometimes with a neighbor who seems unbearable, sometimes with an employer, customer, or government official who seems overly demanding or unfair, sometimes with a relative, fellow Christian or even another church. The answer to handling these type problems is not revenge, hostility or avoidance of the problem, which is not a real possibility anyways. What does the Bible (our perfect instruction book) tell us about relationships?

The Bible tells us that we are to "Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody." (Romans 12:18) So our need and goal should be to know how to build better relationships. I believe this passage of Scripture can help us in that goal because in it we find Four Principles for Building Better Relationships.

Read Verse 22

As you may recall from Genesis chapter 20, Abraham and Abimelech had a prior relationship that was anything but positive and so they each went their separate ways. Nevertheless it became obvious to Abimelech that something more needed to be done because as he said to Abraham, "God is with you in everything you do." God’s promised favor was upon Abraham and therefore his entourage was growing. Abraham was acquiring more livestock and more people, therefore he would soon need even more area to support them and the only available pasture was in what was considered Abimelech’s territory. Abimelech rightly perceived this as a potential conflict so he takes the initiative in resolving this problem before it starts. In essence, he comes to Abraham and says, "Let’s come to an agreement and understanding." In this act he reveals the first principal of building better relationships.

Principal #1: Be Proactive In Avoiding Future Conflicts

Most people are reactive that is they wait for conflict to manifest itself and intensify before they do anything to try and resolve it. This is better than ignoring the problem or resorting to worldly solutions (hostility, revenge, etc.) but in many cases we can avoid conflict altogether by being proactive. We need to use godly wisdom to see potential conflicts and respond accordingly.

Illustration: I can give you a personal application of this principle. As you know we are considering affiliating with Calvary Chapel. Now there is another Calvary Chapel located 10 mi. away in Port Saint Lucie. The Pastor there is Logan Dalton and we’ve been meeting and have a growing friendship. Now recently we have had some people start attending New Life in Christ who were attending Pastor Logan’s church because we are located closer to them. Pastor Logan is a very humble, kind, and cooperative person and probably has no problem with this but I do see the potential for conflict. Therefore I am going to meet with Pastor Logan, acknowledge what is happening, and come to an understanding so that we can avoid any future problems. Why do this when no problem currently exist? Because it is one of the principles of building better relationships

Principal #1: Be Proactive In Avoiding Future Conflicts

This is true when dealing with neighbors, employers, or anyone else. It is much easier to avoid problems than it is to solve them later. In the same way that it is easier to use sunscreen now that it is to treat skin cancer later.

Read Verses 23-24

Here Abimelech along with Phicol (Chief of Staff) seek to enter into a covenant relationship with Abraham. This was the typical way in ancient times that people and nations avoided conflict. He asked Abraham for such an agreement which is not unusual but he also adds one unusual phrase to the wording of the agreement when he says, "Swear... that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants."

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