Summary: Conflict is inevitable in our lives. Therefore, we must learn how to work toward conflict resolution. Nehemiah is an excellent example for us on resolving conflict.
A. Today, I want us to begin this sermon by looking at a couple of cartoons to get us thinking about “conflict resolution.”
1. Cartoon #1 – Here we have a typical church committee meeting…
a. Someone makes the proposal – “I think the church needs a conflict management plan…”
b. Someone else responds, “Rubbish!”
c. Someone else responds, “That’s a great idea!”
d. To which another responds, “Oh, what would you know, you silly old fool!”
e. To which another responds, “Leave him alone you dictator!!”
f. The last person says, “Could we talk about something else?”
g. Have you ever been in that kind of conflictual conversation? I certainly have!
2. Cartoon #2 – “We need to form a conflict-resolution team to settle the dispute over who should be chosen for our conflict-resolution team.”
B. Anyone who has been in a leadership position has had to wrestle with conflict resolution.
1. That’s true whether you are a CEO, president, church leader, parent or spouse.
2. In reality, whenever you have two or more people involved, disagreements are inevitable.
3. If your experience is like mine, then you know that some conflicts are easy to resolve, other conflicts are complex and difficult to resolve, and unfortunately, some conflicts are unresolvable.
4. One thing is certain, if at all possible, conflicts must be resolved.
5. If we don’t make every effort to resolve conflicts, then organizational efficiency and productivity will suffer, churches may split, and families and marriages may come apart.
C. As we return today to our study of Nehemiah, we will see that he faced an internal problem that needed resolution.
1. In the midst of Nehemiah’s incredible challenge to defeat the opposition of his enemies while at the same time to keep rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall, he was hit with an internal problem.
2. As with all internal conflicts, they must be resolved – and as soon as possible.
3. If they’re not, then they’ll get worse.
4. In this case, if Nehemiah had not faced this problem head-on, it could have derailed the whole building project which would have spelled victory for Israel’s enemies, and worse yet, it would have brought reproach on the name of the Lord.
D. So let’s investigate the problem that needed resolving and learn some lessons about conflict resolution.
I. The Problem
A. Let’s pick up our story in Nehemiah 5:1-5: 1 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. 2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” 3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.” 4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.” (Neh. 5:1-5)
1. The conflict that Nehemiah faced in Israel was so severe that “there was a great outcry against their Jewish brothers.”
2. This was no minor problem. It was complex and had been brewing for a long time.
3. So what was the problem?
a. First, Verse 2 tells us that some people were running out of food.
b. Second, Verse 3 tells us that many who had enough to eat were putting food on their tables by mortgaging their fields, vineyards and homes.
c. Third, Verse 4 tells us that others, in order to keep their property, were borrowing money from their Jewish brothers to pay taxes to the king. The problem was compounded by the exorbitant interest rates their Jewish brothers were charging them.
d. Finally, and worst of all, verse 5 tells us that when their crops failed, their creditors took away their property and sold their children into slavery.
e. They were left in a hopeless and powerless state.
B. Those who worked on the wall of Jerusalem no doubt derived profound satisfaction from watching the progress on the wall.
1. But the harsh reality was – they couldn’t eat the walls!
2. They and their families needed food, and time spent on building was taken from their time to work in the fields and other work.
3. And, as is so often the case, those who gave themselves to work on the wall were mostly those who could least afford to do so.
4. Add to that the fact that a famine was being experienced which certainly complicated matters.