Family is family! It has been said that you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family. Yes, there are times that family can drive us crazy. The challenge for the follower of Jesus is to respond in a Jesus honoring way.
Our “Knowing the Unknown” series has us currently studying the Old Testament Covenant. It was during my studies of the Abrahamic Covenant that I came across a “family situation” in the patriarch Abram’s life. It is an account that offers some practical insight for working with what we are joined to through, blood, adoption or marriage.
God’s promises to Abram, given in Genesis 12, are reaffirmed in four other passages. (Genesis 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-14 & 22:15-18) Each of these five passage expand and clarify God’s commitment to Abram, to his descendants and to all of humanity. The one passage that stood out to me was the Genesis 13 passage. The passage reveals God’s blessing on Abram and Lot with the increase of their wealth and herds. The family dispute began when, “so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.” (Genesis 13:6–7). Just like in our relationships today, it is usually something that ignites conflict. The issue is not that families have conflicts, but how they resolve them. It is easy to imagine how the shortage of grazing land could have driven a wedge in Abram’s relationship with his Nephew, that he and Sara had raised!
Let me point out a couple of observations on how Abram resolved this family dividing situation. First, Abram addressed the situation with Lot. “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.” (Genesis 13:8) This the first and most important step. Talking honestly with the other party. Conflict that is spread to the rest of the family and others only becomes more difficult to resolve. And even if it is eventually resolved, other family members tend to hold grudges. Second, Abram addressed the situation in a way that was seeking a resolution. I am afraid that too many family do not realize the value of their family relationship. This was the motive stated by Abram for working things out. He did not come in guns blazing. No, he refrained from pointing the finger, exercising his position and authority in the family. He came acknowledging the problem and seeking a mutual resolution.
Third, Abram’s solution jumped out to me. Abram solution was to divide the land. It is important to point out that he came with a solution. “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, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:9) He was not trying to make a point. It is also worth mentioning that he was essentially recognizing that it was time for Lot to be on his own. What really stood out to me was that he gave Lot first choice on which half of the land he wanted. Abram was willing to pay the price to maintain the family relationship.
What is not surprising is that Lot took the best portion of the land, the Jordan River Valley. Abram was willing to take the high ground and cover the cost. The text does not say this, but I think that Abram not only understood that importance of family relationships, but also that life’s blessing is realized in our relationship with God rather than where we live. (Read Genesis 13:14-18)
Let me encourage you to be an Abram in your family relationships. Also, it is never too late to work to restore what has been broken.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson