Every family passes through times of conflict and trouble. Some of these times are relatively minor bumps in the road of life, and others, of course, represent serious obstacles that threaten the peace and future of the family. In this week’s lesson we will explore various Bible stories to deepen our understanding of how to avoid, and solve, the little times of trouble in our families.
Several weeks ago the Sabbath School Bible Study Guide contained this quote from the book Early Writings: “If pride and selfishness were laid aside, five minutes would remove most difficulties” (EW, 119). How many of the “little times of trouble” within your family have had pride and selfishness at their root? (Answers will vary.)
Read Matthew 20:20-21. What would you say was at the root of the request made by James’ and John’s mother? (Pride and selfishness.)
Read Matthew 20:24. How did the other ten disciples react when they heard what had happened? (They were angry.) Can you blame them? (Many of us would react the same way.) Why were the ten disciples so frustrated? (They feared that they had been out-maneuvered by James and John. Their problem was pride and selfishness, too.)
Read Matthew 20:26-28. How did Jesus handle the situation, and what principle did He share that would go a long way toward solving many family squabbles? (Jesus explained that in the kingdom of God, true greatness is measured by how humbly one serves others.) How can this principle be lived out day-to-day in the family setting? (Answers will vary.)
Families in Bible times suffered from conflict, just as families do today. Let’s explore a few of these family conflicts recorded in the Bible, and search for clues about how we can best handle similar situations in our own lives.
Read Genesis 16:1-4. What were the causes of family conflict in this story? (They included a failure to trust God, impatience in claiming the promises of God, relying on self to solve a problem, and disobedience of God’s law regarding adultery.) How many of these causes were avoidable? (All of them.) How many of the reasons for conflict in our own families could be avoided? (Most of them.)
Read Genesis 16:5-9. When the family conflict increases, how does Hagar attempt to solve the problem? (She runs away from the situation.) Have you ever tried a similar tactic? How well does it work? (Answers will vary.) What is God’s solution for Hagar? (God tells Hagar to return to Sarai and submit to her.) Do you think this submission was easy for Hagar? (Probably not.) Why did God tell her to go back? (The solution for this particular family conflict was for Hagar to submit to Sarai.) How many of our family conflicts today could be solved in the same way? When is it not proper to submit? (Answers will vary.)
Read Genesis 27:41. What was the cause of conflict in this story? (Jacob had deceived Isaac and stolen the birthright. Esau, for his part, had despised the spiritual blessings of the birthright and had treated them with contempt, then refused to forgive Jacob when he was wronged. Both brothers were at fault.) How many of these causes were avoidable? (All of them.)
Read Genesis 27:43-45; 28:5. How did Isaac and Rebekah attempt to solve this conflict? (They sent Jacob away from home.) How well did it work? (It did preserve Jacob’s life, although he never saw his mother again. Esau, apparently, remained angry for a long time. God did, of course, work through this situation for ultimate good. Sometimes the best option for a family in conflict is to give each other some space.) How was Jacob’s flight from home the same as Hagar’s flight from Sarai? How was it different? (Answers will vary.)
Read Genesis 33:1-9. How does the conflict between Jacob and Esau finally resolve? (After 20 years, they meet each other and achieve reconciliation.) What led to the reconciliation? (Time, presents [see Genesis 32:13-18], and many prayers by Jacob the night before.) Have you seen these same things work in resolving conflicts today? Which one(s) is/are most important? (Answers will vary.)
Read Numbers 12:1-2. What was the cause of conflict in this story? (Jealousy and pride.) How many of these causes were avoidable? (All of them.) What warning should we remember that is found in verse 2? (God hears and sees the conflict that we produce within our families.)
Read Numbers 12:9-13. When God strikes Miriam with leprosy as a punishment for her sin, how does Aaron respond? (He apparently realizes his sin and then askes Moses for forgiveness.) Did Aaron ask the correct person for forgiveness? (Yes, he and Miriam had sinned against Moses.) Why do you think Aaron didn’t pray to God himself for forgiveness? (Apparently the guilt of his sin had cut off his communication with God [see Isaiah 59:1,2].) How does Moses respond? (He prays for Miriam, and she is cleansed of leprosy.) What lessons about conflict within our families can we learn from this story? (Answers will vary. Certainly, we should confess our faults, ask for forgiveness, and intercede for family members that have wronged us.)
The Bible compares the relationship of a husband and wife in marriage to that of Christ and the church. In today’s lesson we will look at a few of the things that Christ has done for the church to resolve the problem of sin that has caused so much conflict, damage, and destruction.
After reading each of the passages below, discuss what principle of action Christ has revealed for resolving conflict:
Romans 5:8. (Christ took the initiative in resolving the problem.)
Hebrews 2:14-18. (Christ took deliberate steps to see and understand the sin problem from our perspective.)
Ephesians 1:7. (Christ has forgiven us of our sins.)
John 21:15-17. (Christ gave Peter a second chance after Peter’s betrayal.)
John 10:10. (Christ is concerned about the total and complete well-being of people.)
Mark 10:17-21. (Christ was honest with the young ruler about the issues that were preventing a closer relationship between them.)
Luke 19:1-10. (Jesus looked for the best in others, even when that seemed difficult to find.)
What additional lessons can you think of from the life of Christ that reveal keys for resolving family conflict? (Answers will vary.)
Anger is an emotion that we all must learn to deal with, both inside and outside of our family settings. We often think of anger as always being bad, but this is not necessarily the case. In today’s lesson we will look at several Bible stories that reveal both good and bad forms of anger, and we will seek to understand the difference between the two.
Read Exodus 32:15-19. How would you describe Moses’ reaction to the idolatry in the camp? (He appeared to be angry, and broke the stone tablets as a result.) Was Moses’ reaction due to his surprise at what was happening? (No. God had already told him what was happening [see Exodus 32:7,8].)
Read Exodus 32:9,10. Who appears to be angry with the Israelites? (God is, and He proposes to destroy them.) How does Moses react to God? (He prays for their forgiveness [see Exodus 32:11-14].) Given that Moses has already prayed for their forgiveness, and “convinced” God not to destroy them, how do you explain his breaking of the stone tablets? (Moses is apparently trying to show them in a graphic way the enormity of their sin. His is a “righteous indignation.”) Have you seen people respond similarly to family or church conflicts? Share an example if it is appropriate. (Answers will vary.)
Read Numbers 20:1-13. How would you describe Moses’ reaction to the Israelites’ complaining? (He gets angry.) What was different about Moses’ anger in this story, from when he broke the stone tablets? (Moses does not pray for the people this time, but instead calls them rebels. He also takes responsibility for the miracle, and directly disobeys God’s command to speak to the rock. His anger has much of human passion in it.) One can understand Moses’ frustration with the people, but what could and should he have done to respond to them correctly? What principles from this story can we apply to our own family conflicts? (Answers will vary.)
Read John 2:13-17. How would you describe Jesus’ actions in the temple? (He appears to be angry, though certainly with a righteousness indignation.) What does Jesus say that reveals the motive for His actions? (He is passionate about God’s glory and the sanctity of the temple.) What principle(s) from Christ’s actions and words can we apply to our family conflicts? (Answers will vary. Sometimes anger about a situation is appropriate, but we must guard against the selfish human anger that most often causes this emotion.)
Unfortunately, families sometimes experience more severe conflict that takes the form of manipulations, control, and even abuse. While situations, of course, do exist where outside professional intervention and separation is required, there are many other situations in which appropriate and Christ-like reactions on the part of those being mistreated can help to reduce tensions and solve conflict. In today’s lesson we will look at several Biblical principals that can apply in such situations.
Read the following passages, and then discuss the principals brought out in each that relate to responding to those who exert ungodly control in our lives:
Matthew 5:38-42. (Turning the other cheek can often reduce conflict.)
Isaiah 53:7; Romans 12:19. (Don’t retaliate.)
Luke 23:33,34. (Pray for your own forgiveness, and the forgiveness of the family member who has hurt you.)
Romans 12:14,17-21. (Overcome evil with good.)
Genesis 21:9-13. (Sometimes separation, whether temporary or permanent, is the only option that remains in order to secure the safety of the abused.)
While family conflict can create much tension, stress, and heartache, the resolution of that conflict often brings peace, renewed trust, and greater unity. In today’s lesson we will look at the story of Joseph and his brothers from the book of Genesis. Their path toward resolution contains important principles for us today as we deal with conflict in our families.
Review Genesis 39. In this part of Joseph’s story, what did he do that allowed God to later bring resolution and restoration in the conflict with his brothers? (Joseph remained faithful to God and dedicated himself to serving God no matter what the results may be.) Why is this an important first step in resolving our conflicts? (Answers will vary. God cannot bless us if we have chosen to live in conflict with His principles of life.)
Review Genesis 42-44. What did Joseph do before trusting his brothers completely again? (Joseph tested them several times to see what their characters were now like.) Was this appropriate in Joseph’s case, and is it sometimes wise for us to do the same today? (Answers will vary.)
Read Genesis 45:5-8. What perspective did Joseph reveal that would be beneficial for us in resolving conflict today? (Joseph realized that God permitted the conflict with his brothers so that greater good could eventually result. Compare Romans 8:28.) Have you seen the truth of this promise played out in your life, or in the lives of those you are close to? (Answers will vary.)
Read Genesis 45:9-11. What does Joseph do next? (He seeks the best for his brothers and their families by inviting them to live in Egypt.) Is this still a good course of action today? (Of course!)
In spite of our best efforts to live at peace with those around us, especially our families, sometimes conflict becomes unavoidable, especially for those that have chosen to serve God in the midst of a family that does not support this choice. In this final lesson of the week, we will look at a few Bible stories of those that were called to make this choice.
Read Luke 12:51-53. What reality does Jesus refer to here? (Following Christ should be more important to us than compromising truth in order to pacify our unbelieving family members.)
Read Matthew 28:20. What promise does Jesus give for those in this difficult situation? (He will never leave us nor forsake us.)
Read Genesis 13:1-13. What happens to Abram and Lot when conflict breaks out between their herdsmen? (Lot moves away and separates from Abram’s household.) What does Abram do in verses 8 and 9? (Abram offers Lot the choice of where to live.) What principle does Abram demonstrate here, and how many conflicts could it de-escalate today if put into practice? (Abram demonstrates unselfishness.)
Read Hebrews 11:24-27. What choice did Moses make? (To leave his earthly Egyptian family and unite himself with God’s people.) What things did Moses have to leave behind in order to make this choice? (Prestige, power, wealth, and influence, to name a few.) What was Moses willing to accept in order to be counted with God’s people? (The wrath of the king, an uncertain future, possible poverty, etc.) What enabled Moses to make this decision? (He “saw him who is invisible.”) How would “seeing” God more clearly help us make the correct decisions in life? (Answers will vary.)
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