Monday, January 30, 2017

Resolving Conflict - I-Thou

Genesis 13:8-9            So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” (NIV)

            I like today’s passage from Genesis 13 about the dispute between Abram and Lot’s herders. Abram’s wisdom, generosity, and grace quickly resolve an issue between them, ensuring that an amicable agreement can be reached before it turns into a nasty conflict. Lot is given the opportunity to choose which direction he would like to take his herd. Abram promises to go in the opposite direction, so that the two of them, along with their families and servants, can live in peace. It appears to be a lesson in conflict management where the gift of deference appears to resolve the problem.

            There’s a lot of discontent and divisions currently taking place between families and friends. We have become so polarized about our opinions and ideas that it is very difficult to actually have a conversation without conflict or a dialogue without disagreement. Rudeness and rivalry are ruining relationships and opposites, instead of attracting one another, are creating outcasts and opponents. We are a divided people which negatively affects our long-standing friendships, sense of fun, and even our faith.

            When I was at Glasgow University in Scotland, training to become a pastor, I studied the works of Martin Buber, the great twentieth-century Jewish philosopher, who wrote a famous book called “I-Thou.” The premise of the book is that we are all made in the image of God, so when we have a dialogue with one another, we should speak to each other as if we are talking directly to God. If we did this, then we could still disagree without being rude, and remain committed to our own ideas without being combative.

            Perhaps it’s time for me to re-read the book and apply Buber’s wisdom in my own discourses with other people, especially my family and friends. I’ve just downloaded it to my Kindle, so I hope and pray it will help. J

Point to ponder

Have I recently experienced some conflicts with my family and friends? Am I willing to do something positive to resolve them?

Prayer:             Lord Jesus, we call You the Prince of Peace and You command us to love one another, even our enemies. Enable us to embrace Your teaching and to share Your peace. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

(If you would like to view Martin Buber’s book and read some reviews, please click on this link: Martin Buber – I-Thou )
Today’s image is one of John’s latest lectionary drawings called ‘Peace Makers.’ If you would like to view a larger version, click this link: Peace.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website on the following page:

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