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.” — Genesis 13:8–9
Shalom, peace, is a word so interconnected with the Jewish faith that it has become almost a symbol of Judaism. But what is the true meaning of peace, shalom? This is one of six devotions exploring the deeper meaning of what it means to bring peace into your home, your relationships, and yes, the world.
Some people might call them “irreconcilable differences” while others may simply “agree to disagree” about certain issues. The difference in how we view disagreements with others can be found in whether we are self-centered or love-centered. A self-centered approach to differences is unyielding. A love-centered approach to differences is willing to accept differences and work around them.
We see a love-centered approach to differences in the biblical story of Abraham and his nephew, Lot. As you may recall, Abraham and Lot had traveled together from the region of Ur to a new land that God had shown them. Along the way, both men had become very rich in livestock, so much so that their great numbers of people, flocks, and herds made it difficult to live on the same land with each other. Tensions rose.
To preserve the peace, Abraham suggested that they go their separate ways. Abraham allowed Lot to have the first choice of the land, and Lot chose the most fertile portion for himself. Abraham was willing to settle for second best in the interest of maintaining the peace. Seeking peace often means putting the good of others before our own personal desires.
Sometimes conflict is inevitable, but how we deal with it can preserve the peace. We don’t have to let our differences damage trust and peace. How we handle disagreements can determine the quality of our relationships.
Christians and Jews have much in common, but we also have some significant disagreements. Yet those differences do not need to become ugly, divisive issues. We can agree to disagree on certain issues so we can focus on areas we share in common. A love-centered approach between Christians and Jews will make a difference in our ability to treat each other with civility and understanding rather than antagonism and rancor.
Maintaining open discussion of our differences is healthy. Let us remember that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). We can gently discuss our differences.
Too, we can learn from Abraham about how we can respond to differences in our personal relationships and remember to take a love-centered approach. As we are willing to give up some of our personal desires to defer to the needs of someone else, we will experience the fruit of that approach — peace with others and a better relationship with others.
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