A few years ago, we took the youth group on a float trip down the Illinois River. Many of the kids had never been river rafting. They learned that there were many obstacles to overcome, such as trees that can knock you into the water or rocks that can flip your raft. It took awhile for some to learn how to maneuver their rafts. If everyone paddled on the same side, the raft would just spin in a circle. Sometimes one youth would be forced to do all the work because their partners selfishly did nothing. Most of them discovered the importance of team work. Those who learned to work together found it much easier to avoid obstacles than those whose partners were selfish.
Like paddling a boat, relationships often encounter obstacles. In Genesis 13, Abram and his family were relocating to Canaan. As they were traveling, there was conflict between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot because there was not enough grass and water for all of the livestock. When Abram learned of the dispute, he quickly took action to resolve the conflict. He was willing to compromise to preserve his relationship with Lot. Abram had faith that God would take care of him, so he generously allowed Lot to choose the land he preferred and took what remained. Lot was selfish and chose the land with the best water source and lush, fertile ground. The disagreement between their herdsmen could have resulted in a broken relationship, but instead Abram was willing to compromise in order to maintain peace and handled a difficult situation with a godly attitude.
There are many obstacles in life. Like rafting, everything goes smoother if everyone works together, but that is not always the case. If each person is determined to get their own way, the relationship will spin in circles repeating more episodes of conflict without getting anywhere. There are also those who selfishly sit back, like Lot, and expect others to make sacrifices in order to keep peace. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The phrase ‘if it is possible’ implies that sometimes, no matter what attempts are made, it will not be possible to live at peace.
Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Humbly considering others before ourselves helps to generate harmony in relationships. Abram demonstrated the type of humble attitude God desires from us. He trusted God in the situation and was blessed despite Lot claiming what appeared to be the best land.
Like the obstacles faced on the youth rafting trip, we can be selfish while others do all the work; we can be the one who unselfishly works harder; or we can learn to work together. Which person are you? What can you do differently to live at peace with everyone?
Sometimes keeping peace means more rowing, or compromise, on our part. Unfortunately, there may be times when peace can not be achieved, but we need to strive to do everything possible before giving up. Generosity and sacrifice will often create peace as we maneuver through life trying to avoid conflict in relationships.