Resolving Personal Conflict
I hate conflict. I suspect you do too. While it is inevitable that conflict occasionally enters our lives most of us do not feel like we handle it well. Yet Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). We just welcomed our first grandchild into the world. Our son thinks she has his eyes. Children tend to look like their parents. As Christians, we claim that God is our Father. He is a peacemaker, so if we are going to look like him we also must be peacemakers.
So how do we do this effectively? I think it would be best if we learned from one of the great peacemakers of the Hebrew Scriptures—Abigail. Her story is found in 1 Samuel 25. She was married to a rich but wicked man named Nabal, whose name literally means fool! The famous David, who would someday become the king of Israel was on the run from the first king of Israel, Saul. David had a small army and he acted similar to a police force in the area called Maon, which was something of a no man’s land. David and his men had protected Nabal’s herds. So at sheep shearing time David sent messengers to see if Nabal would give David some food and support as a courtesy for the protection David had provided him. Nabal did not just say no but mocked David, in essence telling him he was a nobody. David, who had shown remarkable restraint earlier; and when given the chance to kill evil King Saul, refused; now threw off all restraint. He literally lost it. His anger was raging, and his testosterone was flowing. He was going to kill Nabal and every male member of his household, servants, and even grown sons. This was going to be a murder and possibly a massacre.
However, Abigail, the beautiful and brave wife of Nabal, heard what had happened. She acted quickly. She gathered two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs and loaded them on donkeys. This woman was an ancient version of Costco! She then took her feast and headed towards David’s army of 400 men. Picture the scene, an army of battle-hardened soldiers entering a ravine, only to find a woman with baked goods taking her stand. I do not know about you, but I am impressed. She took the initiative to save her worthless husband and the men of her household. David and the army stop. She humbly approaches David and reminds him of who He is, the Lord’s anointed, the next king of Israel. She calls out the honorable man in front of her, who she suspects is inside the angry man filled with murderous intent. Surprisingly, David actually listens to her and peace is accomplished. She goes home to find her worthless husband drunk. The next day when she tells him what happened; he is so overcome that he has a stroke or heart attack, goes into a coma, and ten days later dies. David feels like God has pronounced swift justice on Nabal and he offers the remarkable Abigail a marriage proposal. She accepts, they married, and she becomes his wife and an eventual queen of Israel.
What a story! Let me quickly pull out several ways Abigail practiced peace making so that we can learn from her life. First, she took the initiative. She saw the exploding situation and stepped into the conflict rather than run from conflict (which is what most of us do). How many estranged siblings or married couples or former friends are waiting for the other person to take the first step? Many I suspect. If there is a clash in your life what would it look like for you to take the initiative?
Second, she chose to be humble. Pride is like gasoline thrown on the fire of conflict. In contrast, humility is like water poured on the fire. Abigail approached David respectfully in her posture and the way she addressed him. Author P. Brian Noble once said, “When humility steps into the room Jesus wins.” One of the best ways you can show humility in a conflict is to own and apologize for your contribution to the mess. Maybe you only think you contributed 10% towards the conflict. By apologizing for your 10 percent you give the gift of going first. While not a guarantee, the other person will often acknowledge at least part of how they contributed to the conflict. Progress can be made. Another way to show humility is to genuinely listen to the other person. See if you cannot understand the other person’s perspective. You do not have to agree, but there is great power in someone feeling heard.
Third, choose to see the best in the other person. Abigail did not just see an angry, murderous David, she saw the man of honor that he generally exemplified. She saw a future king; she spoke to that part of David and he responded. In our conflicts it is easy to just focus on what they did wrong in your relationship. Look at them with our Heavenly Father’s eyes. Ask yourself what they have done right? See the whole person, not just the action that caused offense.
Fourth, let God handle justice and vengeance. Abigail challenged David not to take revenge but to let the Lord fight his battles. Lay down the desire to get revenge. Resist the urge to attack your opponent on social media. When given the chance to tell your story of hurt to others, resist. God can settle the accounts, let him do whatever should be done.
I love the honesty of the Bible. The apostle Paul says, “IF IT IS POSSIBLE, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12;18). You will not be able to reconcile with everyone, but isn’t it worth a shot. Resist the urge to build a wall; build a bridge instead.
Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church