From managing conflict to healing it

Nearly four thousand years ago in the Middle East two men faced a serious conflict. It was not unlike challenges that have been confronted many times by individuals and nations throughout history. The two men had substantial wealth and were sharing the same land between them. But that piece of land simply could not provide adequate pasturage for their extensive herds or enough space to accommodate all their family members, servants, tents, and other possessions. And as the Bible relates, "There was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle." Gen. 13:7.

Abram's response in this circumstance shows his practical wisdom and a willingness to make necessary and generous concessions. One might say that Abram offers an early example in recorded history of successful conflict management. "And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left." Gen. 13:8, 9. It was on this basis that the strife ended.

As important as this resolution between two individuals was, the management of conflict in that single instance couldn't possibly have been sufficient to bring a wider or lasting peace to an entire region of political instability. The Bible records that not long after Lot went to the east, war arose there between opposing kings. Lot himself was temporarily taken captive.

May 12, 1986

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