HEADING OFF RELATIONAL DISASTERS
Six Marks of a Spirit of Magnanimity for Preventing Conflict
One of my favorite Old Testament accounts with peacemaking implications is Gen. 13:1-18. It tells of Abram’s largess in responding to Lot, his nephew, when a potential meltdown brewed on the south 40.
Here are a number of principles we can learn from the way Abram intercepted a family rupture before it ever happened.
First, taking initiative to diffuse tension. The conflict starts among the herdsmen. It doesn’t start with Lot and Abram, but their servants. It had to do with the tensions created by the amount of property stewarded by each man’s workers.
Word eventually got to the owner/masters about the conflict. Someone reported back to base about the escalating tensions in the field. But v. 8 is clear. Then Abram said to Lot. Abram took the first step. So often a relational disaster occurs because in pride, fear or selfishness or all of the above, no one will take the initiative—get the ball rolling.
Second, making efforts to avoid arguments. Look at Abram’s heart in v. 8. Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.” We’re family! We’re flesh and blood, man. You’re my nephew; I’m your uncle. I don’t want strife between us.
Do you see the value driving Abram in terms of his initiative? He will pay any reasonable cost—perhaps even an unreasonable one. But he will certainly pay a cost to avoid unnecessary conflict because he has the value—I will avoid a breach if I can do anything at all to prevent it.
Third, declining rights to press advantages. Again, notice the basis upon which Abram appeals to Lot—we are kinsmen. I don’t know that any of us would have blamed him if he responded very differently. I’m your uncle, you little ungrateful so and so. What you think you’re doing? You’ve got a lot of nerve after all I have done for you.
But that clearly isn’t the card Abram played. He speaks to him equal to equal with his brotherly affection spilling over onto Lot.
Fourth, making choices to release control. Here’s where Abram’s magnanimity and spiritual resolve really shine. What else can we say of v. 9? Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, I will go to the left.
Our culture and time would probably pull Abram aside and question his sanity. We would advise him to think more than twice about such an offer. You choose, son!
Fifth, having courage to accept outcomes. It took courage, did it not, for Abram to venture this? And there is no hint of Lot countering with a similar spirit of deferment. What does Lot do in response to Abram’s magnanimous offer in v. 10? Lot lifted up his eyes. He gazed upon well-watered Jordan Valley—water is everything!
He went East—always a direction away from the Lord and His blessing in Genesis—they separated. Abram went to the land of Canaan. God’s plan all along and Lot settled near where? Sodom. A set up for disaster just a short distance down the road. All because his eyes were lifted up on the things of this world and not the Lord.
Sixth, trusting God to keep promises. They parted. Lot in his direction, Abram in his. The relationship was intact. There was no breach, in large part due to Abram’s magnanimous spirit.
And notice what happens in v. 14. Who comes to Abram? God does. It’s at the point where he has released/surrendered in his magnanimity that God comes to him and says, “Lift up your eyes!” God comes to him and shows him the portion of the land which will be for him. Nothing was lost by his generosity.
Is there a relational storm brewing on your horizon? How might magnanimity on your part head off disaster before it strikes?