These are Zemi’s notes from the teaching on May 5th. Unfortunately, we forgot to record the session for external posting, but it is available in the Facebook group.
Our Focus of the Month is Conflict Resolution and our scripture for the month is Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Throughout the month of May we will focus on different types of conflict, conflict resolution strategies and conflict resolution examples found in everyday life and in the Bible.
This post will focus on a biblical example: Abigail’s handling of conflict. But first let’s define conflict and more specifically, interpersonal conflict.
conflict (n.): discord of action, feeling, or effect; antagonism or opposition, as of interests or principles
conflict (v.): to fight or content; to come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition; clash
interpersonal conflict (n.): conflict that involves two or more people; interpersonal conflict may be expressed verbally or non-verbally from rolling the eyes and giving the “cold shoulder” to the more obvious blowout
Note, that interpersonal conflict differs from interpersonal violence, which goes beyond communication to include abuse.
Note also that conflict is not always negative or unproductive. In fact, research has shown that the quantity of conflicts (i.e. the number of times you butt heads) is not as important as how the conflict is handled.
Now that we have a general understanding of conflict, let’s jump into today’s message.
Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 25:2-42. The opposing parties in this narrative are David and his men (angry and hungry) and Nabal (foolish and arrogant).
I have pulled out an excerpt for you to reflect on, but please do read the entire chapter.
4b When David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep, 5 David sent ten young men; and David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, go to Nabal, and greet him in my name. 6 And thus you shall say to him who lives in prosperity: ‘Peace be to you, peace to your house, and peace to all that you have! 7 Now I have heard that you have shearers. Your shepherds were with us, and we did not hurt them, nor was there anything missing from them all the while they were in Carmel. 8 Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore [a]let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever comes to your hand to your servants and to your son David.’ ”
9 So when David’s young men came, they spoke to Nabal according to all these words in the name of David, and waited.
10 Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. 11 Shall I then take my bread and my water and my [b]meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?”
12 So David’s young men turned on their heels and went back; and they came and told him all these words. 13 Then David said to his men, “Every man gird on his sword.” So every man girded on his sword, and David also girded on his sword. And about four hundred men went with David, and two hundred stayed with the supplies.
14 Now one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying, “Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master; and he [c]reviled them. 15 But the men were very good to us, and we were not hurt, nor did we miss anything as long as we accompanied them, when we were in the fields. 16 They were a wall to us both by night and day, all the time we were with them keeping the sheep. 17 Now therefore, know and consider what you will do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his household. For he is such a scoundrel[d] that one cannot speak to him.”
18 Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep already dressed, five seahs of roasted grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 And she said to her servants, “Go on before me; see, I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.
How did Abigail handle the situation?
Abigail acted as a mediator. Verse 18 says, “Abigail acted quickly!” She took provisions and immediately went to see about the problem because this was a matter of life or death!
What do we see here?
- She acted swiftly. She knew it was a life or death situation
- She showed honor with gifts
- She met a need
- She solved the original problem which was the hunger
- She used wisdom!
Abigail & David
Now let’s move to her interaction with David, party number one.
23 Now when Abigail saw David, she dismounted quickly from the donkey, fell on her face before David, and bowed down to the ground. 24 So she fell at his feet and said: “On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be! And please let your maidservant [e]speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant. 25 Please, let not my lord [f]regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: [g]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. 26 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[h] yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal. 27 And now this present which your maidservant has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28 Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the Lord will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the Lord, and evil is not found in you throughout your days. 29 Yet a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the Lord your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling. 30 And it shall come to pass, when the Lord has done for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you ruler over Israel, 31 that this will be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself. But when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.”
What do we see here?
- She acknowledged the problem/root cause
- She offered the gifts/showed honor and respect
- She offered praise and affirmation to calm the situation
And what was the result? Her words were heard and her gifts were accepted. Problem solved! And…best part?! No one died…well not yet anyway…spoiler alert!
Abigail & Nabal
Now let’s move to Abigail’s interaction with her husband Nabal, party number two.
36 Now Abigail went to Nabal, and there he was, holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; therefore she told him nothing, little or much, until morning light. 37 So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. 38 Then it happened, after about ten days, that the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.
Abigail’s actions here also required wisdom. She waited until her husband was sober to tell him what had taken place as, in his drunken state, he may have been incoherent or forgotten/dismissed her words.
What do we see here?
Abigail tailored her response to each individual. She actively listened to the man who told her about the issue, calmed and met the needs of David and his men, and carefully timed her communication with her spouse.
Every situation and each individual will require changes in approach. The exact strategy implemented is dependent upon person, timing, environment, etc.
How did Nabal handle conflict?
Nabal had a hand to play in the threat that was coming for him and even in his eventual death. Proverbs 18:6 says, “The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite beating.” Nabal’s name literally means “fool”. Let’s read the verse again, with Nabal’s name inserted for emphasis, “The lips of Nabal brought him strife and his mouth invited a beating.”
If only Nabal had accepted David’s proclamation of long life and had provided the men with an offering of thanksgiving for watching over his flock. If only!
Ladies, Nabal’s life is a warning to use your words with care and to show honor and respect where it is due.
There are several key takeaways from this example of conflict management and resolution.
- Use wisdom. Pray to be Holy Spirit led, not self or flesh led. The flesh can ignite a conflict while the Spirit will give you wisdom to avoid a conflict.
- Act swiftly. The word says, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:25). As far as possible, swiftly resolve conflicts. Do not allow them to fester.
- Acknowledge the problem/root cause. Do not ignore or avoid the underlying issue as you try to put out fires (i.e. what I call addressing “fruit issues”). It is possible to address both the root and fruit issues.
- Solve the problem(s). Abigail used praise and affirmation to calm David and his men and to avoid a blood bath. She solved the fruit issue. She also solved the root issue by providing them with gifts and food, which met their original request for provisions.
- Consider timing. In some instances you must act swiftly, and in others you must apply patience.
- Adjust approach as necessary. Each person and situation is unique. Do not use one standard method or approach. Tailor to the party and their needs, personality, etc.
- Show honor. Do not be thankless. Give cheerfully out of the abundance God has blessed you with.
Earlier this year we learned another key verse in Proverbs, “A wise woman builds…” (Proverbs 14:1). I pray that you will be wise women who build!
Lord, we pray that:
- Conflict may draw together families, spouses, friends, work families, churches, etc.
- We would be equipped with strategies for handling conflict
- We would use the wisdom of Solomon when handling disputes
- We may be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19)
Lord, we pray for:
- self control (Proverbs 16:32)
- softened heart (Ezekiel 36:26 & Ezekiel 11:19)
- wisdom in matters of communication (written, spoken, and non-verbal)
For further reading, see the below scriptures:
- 1 John 3:18
- 1 Timothy 4:12
- Psalm 34:1
- Proverbs 16:23
- Proverbs 20:15
- Proverbs 13:2
- Proverbs 27:2
- Ecclesiastes 10:2
May God bless you and keep you!