With wars festering in many countries, and continuing conflict over land in the West Bank, I pray that political leaders might have the reconciling spirit of Abraham.
Shortly after returning to Canaan from Egypt, Abraham found himself in conflict with his nephew Lot over access to grazing (Genesis 13). Abraham was rich, and as patriarch could have demanded that his herds get the best. Instead, he chose generosity.
“Let there be no strife between your herders and my herders,” Abraham told Lot, “for we are kindred. Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”
Hearing such a gracious offer, one might expect Lot to defer to his uncle. But Lot looked eastward and saw that the “plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt” (where the Nile River creates a long, lush ribbon of agricultural land).
Genesis says Lot “chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan.” Abraham settled in Canaan, the drier highlands, while his nephew went to the far side of the valley and set up camp near Sodom.
Today travelers along eastern edges of highlands in the West Bank can look down across green vegetation in the Jordan valley below. On the far side of the valley, just before the mountains, there is an unexcavated tel (archeological mound) that may contain ruins of ancient Sodom. There Lot settled after helping himself to what appeared to be the best land when Abraham the peacemaker made that possible.
Modern social theory identifies five negotiation styles in conflict: 1) compete (I win/you lose), 2) accommodate (you win/I lose), 3) avoid (I lose/you lose), 4) compromise (I win some/lose some, you win some/lose some), and 5) collaborate (I win/you win). In this conflict with Lot, Abraham accommodated.
A University of Notre Dame website says “Giving in or accommodating the other party requires a lot of cooperation and little courage. . . This style might be viewed as letting the other party have his way. While this style can lead to making peace and moving forward, it can also lead to the accommodator feeling resentment.”
Yes, that is a hazard. But after Lot and Abraham parted, Abraham rescued his nephew when he was abducted (Gen. 14), and later pleaded (unsuccessfully) with God to spare the city of Sodom, where Lot lived (Gen. 18). There is no hint of resentment in these actions of Abraham, but neither is there evidence that the accommodating and rescuing he did issued in a close bond between him and Lot.
But by taking generous initiative for a peaceful solution with Lot, Abraham was not burdened with bitterness. I admire his willingness to share with Lot and even accept loss to keep peace. Sometimes accommodation, or going the second mile (Matt. 5:41), is the best strategy in conflict. Abraham had faith in God’s call, and confidence that God would be good on the promise to bless him and his descendants with land and abundance.
© 2017 J. Nelson Kraybill ****************************************
Come with my wife Ellen and me on a Peace Pilgrim walk in Galilee and Jerusalem—an active tour accessible even to non-athletes like myself. Dates are May 14-25, 2018. We will walk parts of the Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum. Details are still pending but we likely also will hike at Caesarea Philippi where Jesus took the disciples on retreat in the foothills of Mt Hermon. At Jerusalem we will walk the city walls, trace the triumphal entry route, and more. Interested? See https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/holy-land-peace-pilgrim-walk-jesus/