As a mediator, I am sure that you have had this situation come up. The mediation has been going on for about five hours, and the parties are at an impasse. Then, suddenly, there is a shift. A breakthrough comes where you become able to quickly help the parties settle their differences.
You can probably relate to this situation as well. At the mediation session, the people in conflict have gotten extremely angry with each other, and they are stubbornly holding onto unreasonable positions. You decide that taking a recess is the best route, and you advise them that you want to resume the mediation session in about a week’s time. When they return something has changed. For some reason, they are more reasonable. Their anger towards each other has also subsided. They are now ready to listen to each other, instead of yelling and screaming at each other. The change in them now allows you to help them resolve all the issues that separated them from each other.
When you see this kind of event happen in the mediation session you are a part of, it will astound you and amaze you. But, in your debriefing time, as you pause and consider how this conflict was resolved and what you learned from the process, does your mind tell you that the solution came from what you learned in your 40 hour training, the books you have read, or skills you have learned in the most recent mediation conference you attended. Techniques and teaching are good. But, I believe that the true answer to this question transcends these things. In each of these cases, and in the mediation sessions where you have had success, I believe it was the unseen hand of God Almighty at work.
In times when I have helped congregation members and leaders resolve disagreements, I have seen God touch people’s hearts, making them more amenable to settle their differences with each other. Experientially, I have learned that God is the one who maketh “all wars to cease unto the ends of the earth” (see Psalm 46, verse 8).
Some people believe that God works only in addressing congregational conflict, or in religious circles, such as temples, mosques, synagogues and churches. I have found that this is not true. In the years that I have been an attorney and a mediator, I have witnessed God’s power at work helping people resolve non-religious conflict, such as domestic, real estate and securities disputes. God’s love and intervention is not limited to the people who attend religious institutions. Because He loves all of mankind, I believe He intervenes to help people of all backgrounds, races, creeds and colors to end their differences and be at peace with each other.
The story of King Solomon, and his resolution of the dispute between two harlots is an example of how God works in these situations. These women came to Solomon to settle the issue of which of them was the mother of an infant child. After Solomon heard both of their stories, he called for a sword to be brought to him. He then said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other” (1 Book of Kings chapter , verse 25). When Solomon spoke these words, one of the women’s hearts was deeply touched. Because she did not want to see this child hurt, she said to Solomon, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him” (1 Book of Kings chapter , verse 26). When this woman showed such compassion, Solomon knew that she was the true mother of the child.
Once this dispute was resolved, everyone knew that it was not Solomon’s cleverness, educational training or mediation techniques that allowed him to resolve this matter. The people knew that it was God who gave Solomon the wisdom to do this: “ And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had rendered: and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice” (1 Book of Kings chapter , verse 28). In this case, Solomon could not tell who was telling the truth by the stories these women told. But, God was able to give Solomon wisdom to move on people’s hearts, to allow the real truth to come out to resolve this disagreement.
Many people look at Solomon’s story as an old wives tale, or a fable that has no significance in the world today. I disagree. The God of Solomon is still alive. Other examples in the Bible confirm this truth.
At Genesis chapter 26, God ended the conflict over wells between Abraham’s son Isaac and the herdsmen of Gerar, in the land of the Philistines. According to the text, whenever Isaac’s men dug a well, the men of Gerar would claim it as theirs. This pattern continued for a long time. Isaac could not get these men to sit down with him and resolve their differences. Also, no matter what Isaac did, these men continued to fight him over every well he dug. Isaac wondered to himself if this struggle would ever end, as many of us do when we are involved in protracted conflicts.
Although there was no sign of resolution in sight, the conflict ended. According to Genesis chapter 26, verse 22, when Isaac’s men dug another well, this time the men of Gerar did not fight for it. Isaac was surprised and shocked. He knew that his efforts did not accomplish this. For this reason, he thanked God by naming this well Rehoboth: “And he moved from there, and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land”.
At Genesis chapter 31, God helped Jacob and his father in law Laban end their conflict with each other. These two men had cattle and flocks. They had been at odds with each other for about 20 years. Laban had defrauded Jacob a number of times, and had changed Jacob’s wages ten times. For all the time that they had been living in the land together, Laban was more prosperous than Jacob. But, a turning point came. Jacob’s flocks grew stronger, while Laban’s grew weaker. Once this change occurred, God let Jacob know that it was time for him to leave this land and return to his homeland.
When Jacob and his family left, they did not tell Laban. When Laban found out about this, Laban’s sons told him that Jacob had stolen part of his flock, and had ran away because of the theft. This caused Laban to get so angry at Jacob, that he and his sons ran after Jacob to try to kill him. The night before Laban caught up with Jacob, Laban had a dream. In that dream, God told him, “Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad” (Genesis chapter 31, verse 24).
The next morning when Laban found Jacob, the words God said to Laban in the dream caused him to change his mind about killing Jacob. Instead of fighting Jacob, he and Jacob had an argument. But, for the sake of their children (Jacob’s children and Laban’s grandchildren), they agreed to end their dispute. As angry as Laban was, it took God to move on his heart to end the threat of violence and bring peace.
If you have been involved in mediation and peacemaking for a number of years, I am sure that you have seen a number of conflicts resolved in ways that you have found to be astounding and incomprehensible. Have you seen long term conflicts that strangely ended in a moment of time ? Have you seen disputes that appear to be intractable suddenly ending for reasons that are beyond your logic ? If you have witnessed this as I have, what I am encouraging you to do is to continually thank God for his unseen hand helping you resolve disagreements in situations where men believe it is impossible.
If you believe what I am saying about God is true, I would encourage you to get to know the God of Solomon better, and to look to God, for his wisdom whenever you are called on to handle a dispute. If you are willing to call on God in prayer, I believe He will deal with the hearts of the people who are fighting, to help them find the peace that they so desire. God will also give you the wisdom you need to see solutions to these disputes that you and the people in conflict cannot see. I believe that we all need to look to God for help in order to better peacemakers, in the vital role we play in society.
I assure you that the God Of Solomon still lives today. And He desires to give you the wisdom you need to help people, the same way he did with Solomon.
I’m privileged to be writing this segment of the Anti-Antagonist while I’m sitting in Upstate New York looking out an the autumnal beauty of Lake George. The events of the...By Ann Begler