In Genesis 13:1-8, we encounter a situation that stresses me out. Strife is occurring between Abram and Lot’s herdsmen because there isn’t enough land to support all of them. In order to keep strife from arising between Abram and Lot and to maintain peace among their herdsmen, the two separate so that they can each have enough land.
This situation stresses me out because I hate conflict. I know hate is a strong word, but I think it might be accurate. I try to avoid confrontation at all costs. Arguments make me feel uncomfortable and awkward and tense, and I just do not like those negative feelings. So actually, I need to edit myself. I don’t only hate conflict; I fear it.
On the other hand, some people love it. Some openly admit that they enjoy quarreling, and then there are those who always complain about all the “drama” in their life but just can’t help from engaging or even starting it.
But neither of these dispositions has a proper perspective on conflict. Those who find pleasure in stirring up fights and division probably lack an understanding of God’s heart for peace. Romans 12:18 instructs us,
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Additionally, many verses in the Bible warn against causing strife (do a quick search through Proverbs!), and Galatians 5:19-20 lists strife as a work of the flesh in opposition to the fruits of the Spirit (see also Romans 1:29-31).
Even so, we have no need to fear conflict like I often do. I love this quote fellow LITR writer Erin D. shared with me from Lysa TerKeurst:
“Sometimes relationships grow stronger through conflict. But other times relationships end. Because I can’t control the other person, I must keep focusing on the good God is working out in me through this and leave the outcome with Him.”
As she says in her first sentence, not all conflict is necessarily bad. It can even help us grow. My husband pointed out to me that there is a difference between divisive arguments and passionate discussion. It is possible to engage in disagreements without sinning in anger or bitterness. After all, when “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17), there are bound to be some sparks!
Perhaps more importantly to remember, however, is the fact that God can work all things – even conflict - to accomplish His purposes. After Lot left Abram, the Lord showed Abram all the land He was going to give to him, and Abram moved and built an altar to God.
One of the best illustrations of God using sinful strife for good is in the life of Joseph. In bitterness and jealousy, his brothers sold him into slavery. After a life of extreme suffering because of this action from his brothers, Joseph was able to say to them,
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good...”
God in His sovereignty makes all circumstances, including strife, work out for our good and His glory. Though we are still called to seek peace first and are never given an excuse to sin in our anger, we can confidently and humbly confront conflict head-on. And though it may be extremely difficult, we can trust Him even when we are unable to restore the relationship on our own and must move on to whatever God has for us next.
See Y'all In The Round!
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.