The bible account of the separation of Ishmael from Isaac provides four lessons toward understanding the individual responsibility in family leadership. First, after recognizing the need for the separation, Sarah honored Abraham’s overall leadership by asking him to send Ishmael and his mother away. Abraham honored Sarah’s leadership of the specific matter by taking her demand seriously and seeking God’s guidance toward resolving his personal conflict regarding the demand. Second, God’s guidance to Abraham provides a conflict resolution strategy of focusing on the underlying concerns regarding a dispute. Third, Abraham’s response illustrates quick and permanent resolution of a potentially dividing husband-wife disagreement, to preserve their unity before God. Fourth, the separation highlights selective development of family opportunities: based on selecting the opportunities to develop and those to abandon, delay, or de-emphasize; in order to focus better on the selected opportunities.
We continue the bible study series toward understanding the individual responsibility regarding family leadership, based on bible examples of husband-wife interactions and relationships. Previous studies in the series led to understanding the husband as overall leader of the household and the wife as spiritual gateway of the family and occasional leader in specific matters. Both husband and wife are individually responsible to honor and support family leadership. The family will benefit greatly if they do.
We learn several lessons from Abraham-Sarah interactions in the separation of Ishmael from Isaac: Quick and permanent resolution of a potentially dividing husband-wife disagreement to remain united as one before God; conflict resolution strategy based on understanding and addressing the underlying concerns in a conflict; and opportunity selection based on remaining connected to God to receive guidance regarding opportunities that one may de-emphasize in order to focus on proper development of other opportunities.
We discuss Abraham-Sarah interactions regarding Ishmael to learn about resolving a potentially dividing husband-wife disagreement quickly and permanently. Also, the interactions help us understand that certain things or opportunities that are important to us may at times need to be de-emphasized or abandoned in order to make room for proper development of other opportunities.
Sarah gave birth to Isaac, a son with husband Abraham in their old age, fulfilling God’s promise: “… Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him” [Genesis 17:19]. Therefore, Isaac was the child of promise: God’s promise to Abraham-Sarah will be fulfilled through Isaac’s offspring. However, Abraham with Sarah’s approval had fathered a child Ishmael with Sarah’s maid-servant Hagar. He loved Ishmael, felt a responsibility for him, and maybe wondered about Ishmael’s rightful inheritance as his son.
During a feast to celebrate Isaac’s weaning, Sarah noticed Ishmael display apparent hostility toward Isaac: “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing” [Genesis 21:9]. She recognized the behavior as a sign of potential future threat to Isaac growing up in the presence of Ishmael. Therefore, she demanded Ishmael and his mother be expelled from the household to protect Isaac: “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac” [Genesis 21:10].
Her demand troubled Abraham greatly: “And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham’s sight because of his son” [Genesis 21:11]. He likely was sympathetic to Sarah’s demand but felt an internal conflict with throwing out his son because of a sense of responsibility and concern for his well being. God intervened: He directed Abraham to accept his wife’s demand and resolved his internal conflict by explaining that he will bless each of the two children separately [Genesis 21:12–13]: “But God said to him, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.’”
We learn several lessons through these events. First, we learn an important conflict resolution strategy through God’s resolution of Abraham’s internal conflict. Second, we discuss the urgency of his intervention and the resolution he provided to underscore the need for quick and permanent resolution of any potentially dividing husband-wife disagreement. Third, the separation of Ishmael from Isaac provides a lesson on opportunity selection—recognizing available opportunities that may need to be de-emphasized or abandoned in order to make room for proper development of other opportunities.
Paul was arrested in Jerusalem by a mob that tried to kill him but were forced to surrender him to the custody of Roman authorities. He tried to diffuse the crisis by showing respect to Jewish law, custom, and heritage; the Roman commander; and his rights as a Roman citizen. Although his attempt at crisis management did not end the persecution, the attempt was successful because the persecution changed from beating and torture to detention and a series of public trials and hearings. Also, the trials and hearings became an opportunity for Paul to preach the gospel among his people in Jerusalem and Caesarea as he had in parts of Europe and Asia.
In this installment of our study on Responding to Adversity, we discuss Paul’s interactions at his arrest in Jerusalem to learn about managing adversity by taking deliberate actions to reduce the intensity of a developing crisis. Paul was attacked in Jerusalem by a mob of Jews stirred up through public accusations against his teaching and religious allegiance. The local Roman commander rescued him from the mob by arresting and taking custody of him. We discuss his interactions with the Roman commander and with the mob to understand his attempt at diffusing the crisis.
He showed himself respectful of the commander when he ignored the commander’s obvious but irrelevant mistake and focused instead on providing information to introduce himself. Regarding the mob, he almost won them over by presenting himself as a “son of the soil:” sharing with them the same language; laws, custom, and traditions; and respect for the same heroes and heritage. However, his peace with the mob was short-lived as he re-ignited their ire by reminding them of his long sojourn among Gentiles and his claim of common destiny with the Gentiles. Thus, the persecution continued despite his attempt at diffusing the crisis. Although he was not able to free himself from persecution, his effort at crisis management was partially successful as he asserted his Roman citizenship to win protection against torture or any punishment without trial. He would be tried publicly to determine if he did anything deserving punishment.
Additionally, he used the opportunity of addressing the mob to preach the gospel in Jerusalem for the first time, as he had during missionary journeys through parts of Europe and Asia. He would go on to also preach to other predominantly Jewish audience during trials in Caesarea. Therefore, although his attempt at diffusing the crisis did not end the persecution, the attempt was successful in that it transformed the persecution into a series of trials and public hearings and, thus, an opportunity for him to preach the gospel among his people in Jerusalem and Caesarea as he had in parts of Europe and Asia.
During his early years of captivity in Babylon, Daniel and three compatriots faced an internal conflict with fulfilling their commitment to worship and serve God while being obedient to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king had allotted them a daily ration of food and wine from his supply as part of their preparation to enter his elite service. However, Daniel believed the royal diet would compromise his relationship with God but also recognized he owed obedience to the king and his officials. We study Daniel’s interactions with the king’s staff to understand his approach to negotiating a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
We begin a bible study series based on the experience of Daniel and three compatriots, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-Nego), during their captivity in Babylon. This first session in the series focuses on understanding Daniel’s approach to peaceful resolution of a conflict triggered by the king’s diet requirement for Daniel and his friends.
The king had placed them on a diet based on daily allotment from his own supply of food and wine to support a healthy and robust appearance as part of their training for the king’s service. However, Daniel believed consumption of such food or drink would compromise his relationship with God but also recognized he owed a duty of obedience to the king and his officials. He negotiated a peaceful resolution based on substituting a diet of vegetables and water for the king’s delicacies. Thus, he and his friends remained obedient to the king without engaging in any practice that could compromise their commitment to worship God.
The study provides opportunity to discuss some guiding principles of Christian mediation. As we discuss in a previous study under Christian Basis for Mediation: Part 2 of 2, Christian mediation requires a commitment to peaceful resolution motivated by God’s promise of blessing for peacemakers [Matthew 5:9]. Also, successful mediation often will include seeking knowledge and understanding of the facts and a resolution based on respect for the facts. Daniel’s approach to resolving the conflict appears based on similar principles and consists of the following.
He was motivated to resolve the matter peacefully.
He showed knowledge of the chain of command and recognized who had authority for each decision needed to resolve the conflict.
He had faith of God providing a resolution but recognized the need to apply his human knowledge and capabilities while seeking God’s resolution.
He identified the stakeholders and determined their expectations and how the expectations could be satisfied simultaneously.
This is the second of a two-part discussion of the Christian basis for and approach to mediation. The first part focused on the city clerk in Ephesus defusing a mob by understanding the facts of their grievance and using the facts to lead them to realize that the gathering was unnecessary and could violate the anti-riot ordinance. We learned from the event that a key aspect of mediation is to assess the facts and use them to guide the disputants to a peaceful understanding. Also, a mediation should identify the available options for ending the dispute and potential consequences of continuing with it.
In this final installment of the discussion, we examine two cases that highlight potential difficulties with assessing the facts and presenting them to the disputants. In a case mediated by Solomon, there was no independent witness to verify conflicting accounts of the facts by the disputants. In contrast, the facts were clearly identified at the outset for the second case; however, the mediator needed special communication strategy to present the facts to the disputant in a way that defined a path to resolution. The cases help illustrate special skills that a mediator may need in searching for an acceptable resolution of a conflict.
You may have at times needed to mediate in a dispute between two parties, calm down a crowd, or help an individual resolve an internal conflict. The bible provides guidance on conducting mediation, through several successful examples. We discuss a few of the examples to understand what they did and from them learn how to prepare for, and the approach to conducting, a mediation.
The first example comes from a city clerk defusing a mob in Ephesus during Paul’s mission with Silas. A large crowd had gathered in the city theater and threatened to riot. The city clerk calmed and dispersed the crowd by explaining the facts in a way to convince them the riot was not necessary. We will also look at King Solomon’s mediation of a dispute between two ladies over a baby and commander Joab helping King David resolve an internal dispute between David the father and David the king. We use these examples to learn the Christian basis for, and approach to, mediation. The study is presented in two sessions. This session focuses on using the Scriptures (e.g., Christ’s teaching on seeking peace and Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians) to understand the city clerk’s successful mediation in Ephesus.