Summary: This is the 6th devotion in a series entitled, 'Building Relationships that Last.'
In any relationship, at some point there is bound to be conflict, and the closer we are to someone, the more likely that we will have disagreements over various issues. This is because as human beings, each one of us are different in our personalities, temperaments, up-bringing, and we each have our own values and priorities. Conflict therefore is unavoidable, and conflict in itself is not harmful. Nonetheless, if conflict is not handled in the appropriate way, it could certainly destroy relationships that have taken years to build.
Some of the reasons for conflict are, lack of communication or miscommunication, assumptions, ego, unrealistic expectations, envy, misunderstandings, lack of trust, resentment, bitterness, grudges, difference of opinion and faulty judgement, to name a few.
It is also interesting to note that different people deal with conflict in varied ways. Some will argue, some justify themselves, others will get angry, there are those who will become silent and withdrawn, some will cut off from those whom they have conflict with, others will pretend that the conflict does not exist, and there are those who will internalize these hurts. There are some who might try and sort out the issue with the person concerned in an amicable way. In my experience most of us have not learned to resolve conflict in the way that we are supposed to. The bible teaches us the way God wants us to deal with these differences, and also shows us the right way to handle situations of disagreement or discord that come our way.
There are some wonderful examples from the bible, of those who handled conflict both in the Old and the New Testament. .
Abraham and Lot
In Genesis 13:5-13 there was a conflict between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen. Abraham dealt with this issue in such a mature way, when he let Lot choose to depart from him peacefully. Abraham also most graciously gave Lot the freedom to choose to go to the left or to the right. Lot chose the plain of Jordan because it was well-watered, and Abraham went the other way. The call and promise of God was to Abraham, and Lot was only a tag-along, but Abraham was generous to let go of Lot, and let go of the land, simply to avoid strife between them. What happened as a result was that God blessed Abraham abundantly while Lot ended up in Sodom, which later got destroyed by God’s judgement.
Isaac and the Philistines
We read in Genesis 26 of how Isaac prospered in the land of the Philistines during the reign of King Abimelech. As the land was struck with severe famine, the Philistines either quarreled with Isaac about the wells he had dug, or filled them up with dirt and stopped them. Isaac was so magnanimous, that he moved on and dug other wells instead of fighting over the ones he had dug. Isaac was strong and wealthy, and could have confronted his enemies, but he willingly let go, and God blessed him more and more.
We read in Genesis 26:12, “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him.” (KJV)
Joseph and his brothers
Joseph was envied, hurt, treated harshly, and sold as a slave by his own brothers. However, Joseph decided to extend unconditional forgiveness to his brothers instead of taking revenge on them, though it was in his power to do so. Genesis 37-50 gives a detailed account of the life of Joseph and his amazing attitude towards his brothers, who did him so much harm. Faced with a choice to either punish his brothers or forgive them, Joseph decided to extend love and forgiveness to his brothers.
Saul and David
From 1 Samuel 17 we read the account of King Saul being filled with envy and rage against David, simply because he realized that God was with David, and He gave David fame and victory. As Saul made several attempts to kill David and pursued him relentlessly with a vengeance, David chose to escape from the hands of Saul every time. Not once did David try to retaliate or harm King Saul in any way, though David had many opportunities to do so. David respected the anointing of God on King Saul, and God honored David, and elevated him to be the King of Israel.
King Solomon and the two women
In 1 Kings 3:16-28, we read about an account, of two women who had given birth to baby boys within a gap of few days. One of them accidently slept over her baby and he died. She then quickly exchanged her dead son for the other woman’s baby, and claimed him to be her own. When this conflicting issue was brought before King Solomon, He used his God-given wisdom to find a solution to the same. Solomon then ordered that the baby be cut in two and be given to both of them. While the baby’s real mother begged that the baby be given whole to the other woman, the other woman had no issues to have the king divide the baby. It was very obvious to King Solomon from their reactions as to who the real mother was, and thereby he quickly settled the dispute and handed over the baby to his birth mother.