Published October 17, 2013
Bible Studies for Life, Oct. 27
“In lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than themselves.”
Paul would write these words to the Philippian church. Perhaps as he wrote it, the Holy Spirit brought to his mind the story of our text that occurred about two millennia earlier.
There is a basic law in any conflictual situation: It takes two. There are many battles that could be halted or even avoided altogether if just one of the parties involved would take a deep breath, step back, and evaluate the issue and realize that it simply isn't worth a fight.
Our actions are controlled by our thoughts. For us to get to a place where we can stand down from a confrontation, we must condition our mind to humility. This can be difficult, especially since it goes against the very grain of our human nature, but it is possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.
It has been widely quoted that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. I think this is a pretty good definition. It is not a demonstration of weakness but one of strength of character. It is not an easy thing to rein in one's pride and it can only be done with the Lord's help. Doing so, however, can yield great rewards and is ultimately pleasing to our heavenly Father.
Abraham did four things in this story that stand out to me as evidence of spiritual maturity. These provide an excellent example for us to follow that can lead us to resolving unnecessary conflicts.
He took the first step towards resolution.
This may seem trivial but I believe it to be of great importance. Jesus gave instructions to His disciples that mirrored this step. If you know that a brother is offended with you, go to him and find a solution to the matter.
Many conflicts become prolonged simply because neither of the parties is willing to forsake their pride in favor of healing the rift. They may be afraid of what they might lose, of having their effort rebuffed, or maybe having to admit they were wrong.
When Abraham heard of the dispute between his herdsmen and Lot's, he went to his nephew to work out the problem. This act of grace led to the diffusion of a very volatile situation.
He surrendered his own rights.
Abraham was in no way obligated to subjugate his will to Lot's. Abraham was the patriarch of the family, therefore his wish was basically Lot's command. Further, Lot had attached his own fortune to that of his uncle and was thus indebted to him for his protection and hospitality. Abraham could also lay claim to having “seen it first” when it came to the lands in question.
In a great act of humility that foreshadowed the character of our Savior, Abraham surrendered all of these rights and allowed Lot to have first choice of the prime grazing areas.
Are we willing to yield to others even when we are right and they are wrong? It's not easy, but it can bring a great reward. God blessed Abraham with even more lands than he would have chosen for himself had he acted greedily.
He valued the desires of others.
Abraham realized that it was not about his feelings. He chose to value harmony over possessions. He makes a powerful statement that conveyed his sentiment in verse 8, “... for we be brethren.” It was more important to Abraham that those around him have what they wanted than that he had his own way.
How many church splits, divorces, broken friendships, and dissolved partnerships could be avoided if we would allow ourselves to be guided by this same principle?
The wars and fights in which we find ourselves engaged generally stem from an attitude of “me first.” James describes them as originating from our fleshly nature that causes us to pursue things that God does not want us to have.
I cannot help but come to the conclusion that Abraham's attitude in this matter was developed by time spent with God. Doing this will always impart wisdom to us that will enhance and enrich our life. Abraham, even at this early stage of his walk with God, had already learned the value of the next point.
Abraham was content.
We are told that Abraham dwelled in the land of Canaan. He took what fell to him and simply accepted it. He did not pine for the fertile land of the plains of Jordan. He did not brood over Lot's greed. We do not find him worrying about the ability of the land to sustain his herds. He stayed in Canaan and continued to worship God without complaint.
It is a scriptural principle that godliness with contentment is great gain. We find that God honored Abraham's humility with great reward for him and his descendants. From this point forward, the Bible has very little good to say about Lot. It says much about the righteousness of Abraham, however, holding him up as a paragon of faith in the New Testament.
We even find later that the prayers of Abraham were instrumental in sparing Lot from the judgment that God poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah.
In summary, a sensitive situation that could have easily developed into a blood feud was resolved because Abraham chose to remove himself from the equation. His response diffused the potentially volatile issue.
We can find the ability to do the same as we allow the Spirit of God to conform us to the image of Christ.
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