We all deal with conflict daily, in many forms. Even the church has conflict, internal and external, from time to time. With the Bible as our guide, which biblical examples can teach us about a specific quality that foils conflict? Where does this quality come from? What does it lead to?
Let’s consider Gideon’s example to identify this quality. Chosen by God as a judge of Israel he was assigned to defeat a threat from neighboring Midian (Judges 6:1-8:21). He assembled an army of 32,000, but God sent the fearful home, leaving 10,000 men. Yet again, God thinned the force when Gideon’s men drank from a stream. With faces in the stream, the less alert were sent back. A tiny force of 300 was left. With God’s help this small unit routed the enemy army of over 130,000. As they gave chase, Gideon’s troop called on the neighboring Israelite tribes to intercept the Midianites, and it became a great victory.
But there was conflict among the tribes following this success. The leaders of Ephraim complained that Gideon hadn’t included them from the beginning (Judges 8:1). The truth is that Ephraim wanted the glory. They wanted to be considered major players, after the fact. Gideon could have reacted harshly, but instead he replied simply: “So he said to them, ‘What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison with you?’ Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that,” (Judges 8:2).
Gideon belonged to the clan of Abiezer of the tribe of Manasseh. In other words, he said to the men of Ephraim, your tribe has more from its leftovers, than my clan has in its whole harvest. Gideon used discretion rather than incitement. He tactfully and humbly acknowledged the contribution of the tribe of Ephraim by minimizing his own deeds.
How quickly our pride is injured when we put in the work and someone else takes the credit. It’s easy to do or say something unwise. Pride leads to argument, but humility and discretion restore peace, saving relationships from further damage.
Even King David had a close call with pride. He had protected the territory of a wealthy man named Nabal and had treated his servants very well. David sent some of his own servants to ask for provisions, expecting his generosity to be returned. But Nabal, selfish and ungrateful, feigned ignorance of David and sent them away with nothing. David was infuriated. He immediately ordered his troops to prepare an attack on Nabal:
“Now David had said, ‘Surely in vain I have protected all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belongs to him. And he has repaid me evil for good. May God do so, and more also, to the enemies of David, if I leave one male of all who belong to him by morning light.’” (1 Samuel 25:21-22).
Thankfully, evil-minded Nabal had a wise wife named Abigail. Informed by one of her servants about David’s kindness toward them, and how Nabal had grievously offended David, she quickly prepared large provisions and intercepted David and his men before they could take their own vengeance:
“So she fell at his feet and said: ‘On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be! And please let your maidservant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant. Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him! But I, your maidservant, did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, since the Lord has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal”‘ (1 Samuel 25:24-26). Abigail began with great humility before this enraged warrior,
She carefully makes the point to David that he was about to sin against God by taking his own revenge (Deuteronomy 32:35). Abigail, in a very tactful, discreet way, took control of the situation. As a result, David came to his senses, realized that he was in an unhealthy rage, and recognized the humility of Abigail. By selflessly taking responsibility for Nabal’s foolish decision, respectfully and repeatedly referring to David as “lord,” and gently correcting him, Abigail saved her household and preempted a serious conflict.
We each must decide if peace is our goal, rather than conflict. But defensively we think, how can there be peace when I’m being attacked? The answer starts with our personal humility, a mindset which produces a discreet response from us, leading to peace. Discretion grows from humility, just as indiscretion emerges from pride. Becoming discreet is a daunting goal without humility.
Developing a humble attitude requires going against the flow of our human nature, and that requires God’s help through prayer, study, and application. And it is worth the effort as the application of humility and discretion can avert the destruction of many types of relationships. And teaching our children humility and discretion can also lead to generations of stable, loving families which are the backbone of godly, peaceful nations.