We all remember the show “Friends.” If you’ve been living a in bubble, and you’ve never seen it, you might also be shocked to learn that we’ve landed on the moon, smoking is now bad for you, and Star Wars has more episodes.
Friends was a funny show about – well, it was about friends. I would say they were real friends who argued and had disagreements, but they were always friends. They may have experienced some problems that separated the group from time to time, but, for the most part, they always seemed to end the show with their relationships intact. Wouldn’t it be great if our own lives could mimic that kind of friendly cohesion? But often, our lives fall way short of that fictitiously high sitcom standard, and we find our friendships divided among quarrels that can be senseless and petty.
I think of the Bible narrative of Abram and Lot in Genesis 13. These two men held a relationship that should have been even closer than friends, for they were related. Abram was Lot’s uncle. Yet, they had a problem develop between them. Oddly enough, the problem wasn’t even between Abram and Lot; it was between their respective herdsman.
God had blessed both men with great possessions that included livestock and men who watched after their herds. These possessions were so great between the two of them that the land “between Bethel and Ai” (Genesis 13:3) couldn’t contain them both. So, their herdsmen began to argue.
God had a plan for this, and Abram and Lot parted ways to keep their own relationship intact, because, as Abram pointed out in verse 8, "Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.” It’s nice to see a levelheaded suggestion prevail. And so, Abram and Lot parted ways because of the disagreement of others.
What happens when we have a disagreement with our friends? Or, what happens when our friends have disagreements with our other friends? I guess, at that point, it’s just time to take sides and develop an effective strategy to destroy the “friends of our friends” that we like the least…maybe those that don’t go to church with us? Or, for even more intriguing drama…those that do! Yeah, that will make Sunday School more comfortable; moreover, it will really bolster our witness! Wait, on second thought, that is a bad idea. Let’s reset.
Three quick thoughts regarding a “much better” idea from the life of Abram…
Make Peace, Not Confrontation, the Priority
Peace is important. We shouldn’t be “peacekeepers,” meaning someone that is trying to always facilitate calm waters, even in the midst of bad behavior. Sometimes peace needs to be broken for “just and right” to prevail; however, we should strive to be “peacemakers,” or people who are seeking a peaceful and right resolution in the midst of conflict.
Abram, as Lot’s uncle, could have told Lot to take his livestock, and his argumentative herdsmen, and head out of town…but he didn’t, did he? Abram took the road of peace, acknowledging that their relationship was more important than the conflict between their herdsmen. He used gentle words, patience, and mature reasoning. Abram’s words were meant to deescalate the intensity of the moment, in the search for a peaceful and amicable solution.
Abram became the epitome of Hebrews 12:14, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” This “peacemaker” mentality is a characteristic shown by those who truly have a relationship with Jesus, and these “peacemakers” will be blessed and outwardly identified as “sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Drain the Situation of Any Attempt for Personal Gain/Victory and Fill It with Humility
Abraham did not use this situation as an excuse to profit because of conflict; instead, he actually received the short end of the deal. He gave Lot the choice to pick the land he wanted, and Lot, in typical human fashion…”lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord…So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east” (Genesis 13:10-11). Lot really didn’t do anything wrong here, because Abram gave him the first choice, and he chose. Instead of focusing on what may be a manifestation of greed in Lot, let’s focus on what is absolutely a manifestation of selflessness in Abram. Clearly, Abram is living out the call of Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Someone told me once that “in every tragedy, someone profits.” That’s probably true, but at what expense? Scripture tells us to do nothing that would purposely lead to profit from our selfish ambition and conceit. Could that also include the “profit” of simply winning the argument in order to make your opponent look bad in front of others? I think that is certainly a meaning that can be applied to this passage of Scripture, specifically in this situation. That’s a tough one for me personally, specifically when those you’re in a disagreement with take the low road of name calling, gossip, and character assassination…all over what is normally only a small matter. Jesus says to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39). I have to remind myself of that verse often, lest my flesh nature fall out and rupture something important…like my character and witness.
Trust God to Honor the Decisions You Purposely Make that Line Up with His Instruction
Colossians 3:17 simply says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Notice the lack of addenda in that verse that stipulates it’s OK to act in a reprehensible manner when the people you’re dealing with are behaving like “evil off the chain.” Nope, it doesn’t interject that thought anywhere. That verse doesn’t even give permission to deal more harshly with bad behavior in relatives, either. Hiding your crazy inside the family isn’t permissible. Instead, it just plainly states to do everything in the name of Lord…and to give thanks for it…on purpose.
This was what Abram did, and God rewarded him. Abram simply chose to take the road of peace, humbly offered Lot the land of his choice, and then packed up his RV and headed to Canaan. (Full disclosure for you theologians, there may not have been an actual RV).
The end of this narrative is God telling Abram this…“Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17).
What’s interesting is when this promise to Abram was made. The beginning of verse 14 tells us, “The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him…”. In this particular instance, God didn’t make this promise to Abram beforehand (although God had previously promised to make him into a great nation); instead, God made it after Lot had left the building with all the good stuff...the prime land and well-watered valleys.
How often would we like God to cushion our obedience with promises beforehand? (Well, frankly, He does. His promises for us can all be found in Scripture, but that’s another blog.) But, wouldn’t we like God to tell us where He’ll be taking us a result of our choosing to be Christlike BEFORE we humble our flesh nature into actually being Christlike? That would fabulous, but it's not how God always choses to conduct His business in our life.
The solution is to read Scripture. Interact with God through His Word, and daily communicate with Him through prayer. His promises will be revealed, and your faith will grow. Obedience and sacrifice will become easier, and you will begin to understand the great love that God has for you and for others…even those who strain our ability to behave as “sons of God.” It will become easier to allow yourself to be second, to turn the other cheek, and to give up what you think you want for what God knows you really need.
So the life of Abram, even early in the book of Genesis, reveals a man who not only honored God, but honored friendship, family, and peace. There can’t always be peace, but there can always be a Godly effort put forth to make peace. That effort normally begins when we make a purposed decision to place others ahead of ourselves. Don’t assume that effort will be made by anyone but you. Accept that hypothesis, and be quick to show your Christlikeness first. Be ahead of the curve, and God will honor your efforts.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!