Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Hallelujah Chorus"1 (Lyrics)
Where I live, 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.
Genesis 13:8-9 – So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 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 this story from Genesis 13 about the dispute between Abram and Lot's herdsmen. 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.
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 and 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 were 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 that it will help.
Points 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.
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A wonderful challenge for the New Year, John. Happy New Year.
Thanks John for this timely reminder to be gracious in all our ways. Blessings.
A beautiful, thoughtful devotional to start the year with. Thank you, John!
Blessings for 2018.
I just pulled out my copy from the bookcase. Thanks for the reminder. A great book to re-read.
Dear Pastor John,
As a fellow American I am upset by the anger and inability of so many of our people – leaders and others – to be civil and respectful of differing opinions. I pray with you for all of us to take a good look at ourselves and work to resolve our conflicts. Thank you for this timely devotional.
Too many times we seek to solve conflict on purely human effort. Congregations, sessions, presbyteries existing by pure human effort… so sad? Sad that God Almighty has not been invited to the Table to seek if God is in the situation. A Pharisee named Gamaliel had some wisdom for the Sanhedrim’s ears… [Acts 5: 38-39].
Blessings for the courage to speak truth.
Good morning John, Sorry to hear about all the conflicts that are happening.
The verse that I found helpful for me when having difficulty with someone was this verse from Ephesians 4:2-3
“Be patient, Bearing with one another in love, Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”
May God help you.
I always enjoy your writing. I am a Canadian who heads south in the winter. I am heartsick at what is happening in your country. Canada of course has it’s own set of problems but I don’t think quite the amount of separation between opposing sides. I keep thinking of some of the very young children I worked with. Life was simple for them. They would say “Let’s be friends and share.”
Praying for God to help us all. “Let go and let God” keeps running through my head.
Good Morning, John,
Somewhere during the holiday season I read that families were cutting their holiday visits short because of divisions such as you mentioned this morning. My husband’s sister made a comment during a phone conversation that caused me to think of that very thing. We were talking about a young person in the family who seems to be a habitual liar. She said, ‘You mean like Trump?’ I didn’t think of the situation quite as you mentioned it in your devotional, but from now on your thoughts will roam through my mind and perhaps I will even download Buber’s book.
Happy New Year to you and those you love,
To Mr. John Stuart,
For quite a while I’ve enjoyed your devotionals. I was impressed by your heritage and enjoyed hearing about your growing up years. I’m a full blood Texan, (80 years) but I’ve several different heritages in my ancestors, Scotch-Irish, German, Black Dutch, and Comanche. My Dad wasn’t sure, and at his age, none of the Comanche was to be proud of.
I’ve read the devotionals for quite a few years. I really enjoy the ones you have written about you growing up in Scotland. I’ve only traveled in the Southwest, so reading about other places is interesting to me.
I enjoy reading about others who have grown up in other lands. I enjoy the devotionals that you write. It quite often gives me something to think about, besides what I think I know.
Thank you for the devotionals that you send out.
After reading your meditation for today, I wanted to reach out to you … I feel your anxiety. It seems wherever we go we feel many people are experiencing a lot of discontent. Others have their soap boxes sounding off – in the church community or reaching out to others in the community/world with their own powerful and disenchanting words to others whether within families or in political situations.
John, I have been in the Presbyterian Church since my teens, served on session, ecumenically serving through our Conference Retreat Centre, working with children, youth and women, pastoral and palliative care in facilities but this year I found to be very different in all places (church included). What did I do? I sought prayer for all concerns, read and studied my Bible and yes, I spent many hours in doing the latter. Our Lord is faithful and He walked with me daily reinforcing to me His love and His wisdom. He gave me strength to remember He is always there right beside us. I know He will guide you through these days.
God Be With You Through 2018.