Wednesday, September 2, 2009

OnFire #196 Thorns Under the Skin

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #196 Thorns Under the Skin

We continue on our series of people in conflict in the Bible. This week we see how Abram handles a delicate situation with his nephew, Lot, in Genesis 13.

One of Jan’s projects this week was to prune the rosebush near our back door. When she couldn’t get a few of the woody branches she asked me to help, so I reached down and promptly got pricked. Bleeding, I picked out the thorns and completed the job. After picking out a dozen more tiny darts, I still have some left. I can’t see them, but I can feel them.

Thorns aren’t the only things that can get under our skin. People have been known to irritate us and this is what happened when Abram (later Abraham) and his nephew Lot found themselves too close together to support both of their vast sheep herding enterprises. In Genesis 13:7 we read that Abram’s and Lot’s herdsmen began quarrelling.

We can hear it and understand it. There is only so much good pasture land, and only just so much water, but who will get it? And then what happens when a few sheep go missing? Who gets blamed for that, even if natural causes or wildlife are responsible? Finally, add tempers into the mix, and the situation becomes volatile. We can read all of this into verse 7. There was more at stake than a few words. The situation threatened to blow up by involving the heads of the families.

That’s where Abram and Lot came into things, but there were no explosions. Rather, Abram diffused the situation with calm and grace. In verse 8 we read, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me.” Just because their shepherds were fighting did not mean that they needed to quarrel also. It is tempting to walk into other people’s fights. Someone told a friend when he moved to a close-knit community that if you cut one, they all bleed. Loyalty is good, but it can sometimes lead us blindly. Abram did not let this happen.

And yet something needed to change. The situation couldn’t remain the same because they had too many animals for the land to support. Someone had to move, and again, we see Abram’s grace. In verses 8 and 9, Abram says, essentially, “Hey look, Lot - there’s plenty of land for the two of us. You go one direction - you choose - and I’ll go the other.”

When our boys were younger we taught them how to divide fairly. One would cut, and the other would choose between the two pieces. This is what Abram did on a far grander scale. Lot took the land he could see in front of him which was, according to verse 10, like the garden of Eden. This meant that Abram would have to move, even though he had the right as an elder family member - Lot’s uncle even - to tell Lot to move on. Instead, he left for Hebron.

A little bit of grace goes a long way in a dispute, and there are many ways to extend this mercy. “I’m sorry.” “What can I do to make it better?” “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Even refusing to be offended is an act of grace. Last week we talked about how we can see offense where none was intended. Well, sometimes offense IS intended, but we don’t have to take it that way. Fighting words don’t have to be. I’ve done sound several times for musicians who, to put it mildly, acted like spoiled brats. I wanted to walk off, to leave them singing into the air. That’s just one example that comes to my mind, but there are many more. Sometimes I did the right thing by extending grace, sometimes I did not.

But - here’s the point - we are expected to extend more grace than others are often willing to grant.

It doesn’t feel right sometimes. We want the other person to extend grace to us. We want them to move, to give in. Its the principle of the thing, isn’t it?

But Abram shows us that grace can diffuse a tense situation. He would not be goaded by his shepherds or prodded by others who might insist he stand up for his rights. Rather, he offered up a solution even though it meant more inconvenience to him that Lot. That’s grace in action.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Aug 26, 2009. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

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