Summary: If you want to heal your broken relationships, confess the wrong you have done, confront the wrong done to you, and confirm the right path going forward.
Three weeks after her wedding day, Joanna called her pastor in hysterics. “Pastor,” she cried, “John and I had our first fight together! It was awful. What am I going to do?”
“Calm down, Joanna,” her pastor answered, leaning back in his chair and shaking his head. “This isn't nearly as bad as you think. Every marriage has to have its first fight. It's natural.”
“I know, I know,” Joanna said impatiently. “But what am I going to do with the body?” (Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky, www.PreachingToday.com)
It’s a sad reality that conflict is a natural part of every relationship. The trick is to handle the conflict in a way that we don’t end up killing each other. So how do we do that? How do we heal broken relationships? How do we resolve conflict in a way that brings us closer together rather than tearing us apart?
Nearly 2,000 years before Christ, two powerful men found themselves at odds with each other. There had been lying and stealing between them, and the resulting conflict threatened to destroy many lives. Even so, they found a way to resolve their differences and make peace with each other. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 21, Genesis 21, where we see how these men resolved their differences and so learn some principles for handling our own conflicts today.
Genesis 21:22-23 At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, God is with you in all that you do. Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity, but as I have dealt kindly with you, so you will deal with me and with the land where you have sojourned.” (ESV)
About a year earlier, Abraham had lied to Abimelech, and it got Abimelech into trouble (Genesis 20). Eventually, the truth came out and Abimelech was spared a lot of hardship, but their relationship was never the same after that. Abimelech couldn’t trust Abraham, but he needed to, because Abraham was becoming rich and powerful in his land. It was obvious God was blessing Abraham, so Abimelech comes to Abraham to make things right.
He asks Abraham to do to two things. 1st, Abimelech asks Abraham to swear that he will not lie to him again. He wants Abraham to tell the truth. And 2nd, Abimelech asks Abraham to deal kindly with him, literally, to show him loyal love, the kind of love which will not change with the circumstances. In other words, Abimelech wants Abraham to demonstrate loyalty from here on out.
Now, Abraham could have said, “Forget you. You’re a wicked, pagan king, who can’t be trusted. That’s why I lied to you in the first place. You don’t deserve the truth. You don’t deserve my loyalty. I’m right and you’re wrong. God is obviously blessing me, and if you don’t like it, that’s tough!” Instead…
Genesis 21:24 And Abraham said, “I will swear.” (ESV)