Making peace


As we continue with our survey through Jesus’ Bible, we can undoubtedly learn a lesson from Abraham’s son Isaac. Before we begin, please grab your Bible and read Genesis 26:12-33.

Isaac lived a relatively quiet life. He was a farmer, and he also had flocks and herds of animals. The Lord prospered Isaac while he lived in the Philistine territory, but that prosperity incited the jealousy of the Philistines who drove him out. Isaac returned to the arid soil of the Negev, where his father, Abraham, had lived. There he found that his father’s wells had been filled in by the Philistines. Isaac reopened the wells, but each time he did, the Philistines came, claiming the well as their own. Rather than fight with them, each time it happened, Isaac moved on and opened a new well.

When we are pushed by others, our tendency is to push back and demand our rights. Rarely do we see someone who does not fight back in the face of mistreatment. Even among disciples of Jesus, it is rare to see someone back down from an insult or injury.

Isaac and his servants were busy opening another well when Abimelech and his men showed up. “Here we go again,” Isaac must have thought. To his astonishment, though, the Philistines did not claim his well this time. Instead, they announced a reversal of policy and asked for a truce. They wanted to make a covenant with Isaac.

The testimony of Isaac’s life affected them. They saw God was with him and Isaac’s God appeared to have great power to bless. Maybe they thought it would be a good idea to get on the good side of this God by making friends with Isaac. Perhaps they noticed how he conducted himself in a godly manner, and they felt ashamed. Whatever the reason, Isaac had done nothing to influence them except to live a Godly life.

Things would probably have been different if Isaac had quarreled and fought for his wells. His testimony of peace would have been compromised. He might have been able to keep his wells, but he would have earned lifelong enemies.

The Philistines asked Isaac for a covenant of peace on the basis that they had done “nothing but good” to him and they had sent him away in peace. Isaac must have had to bite his tongue. Nothing but good!? Sent me away in peace!? Weren’t these the same Philistines who had driven him out of their territory? Weren’t they the same Philistines who had pursued him into the Negev and took away his wells? How could they say they had done nothing but good?

Actually, this was how the Philistines apologized for the evil they had done to him. Some people cannot apologize properly. Their ego prevents them from ever admitting any wrong on their own part. Deep inside, such a person knows he is at fault and that he needs to make some sort of conciliatory effort, but an apology is not even a remote possibility.

Isaac overlooked the foolish pride of the Philistines in order to make peace with them. So too we should accept even half-hearted attempts at reconciliation. We should not demand a formal apology. Instead, we should be willing to take whatever modicum of peace our adversary offers.

In Isaac, we have a perfect example of how to win over a hostile neighbor.

Frank Fenton is a lifelong student of the Word of God. He attends the Church of the Messiah in Xenia where he shares teaching duties for the weekly Bible study class, as well as contributing to the congregational teaching.

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