December 5th, 2020

Negotiating disagreements


By Jacob M. Van Zyl on November 21, 2020.

Civilized, open-minded discussion is an essential part of effective problem solving. In contrast, ego-involved defences and attacks not only bedevil meaningful problem solving, but may add new ones such as dysfunctional relationships.
Heated debates show that participants have made a choice and are not willing to compromise. When it happens in a family, members start to clamp up, avoid each other and drift apart. If they do not resolve the stalemate quickly, they may seek comfort elsewhere.
Authoritarian parents block discussion of problems with children, seeing any inputs from the child’s side as talk-back and rebellion.
Democratic parenting leaves room for calm, sensible discussion. It teaches children to think and discover the principles behind the rules.
Although God is the ultimate omniscient and omnipotent authority, he leaves room for his children to negotiate disagreements respectfully.
Abraham laughed when God once again promised him a child without fulfilling the promise after many years. He suggested that God accept Ishmael as that promised heir. God did not reprimand Abraham for his idea; he just affirmed his promise that the child would be born from 90-year-old Sarah (Gen. 17:15-21).
Shortly after God gave his Law in thundering voice to Israel from Mount Sinai, they did the very thing he had forbidden in the first two commands: idolatry. When God wanted to destroy the whole nation for worshiping the golden calf, Moses interceded for them. He pointed out the conclusions other nations would make about God if he destroyed Israel. Moses acted as a type of Christ to save sinners by mediation. God relented and executed only 3,000 people (Ex. 32).
When Israel wavered to take the Promised Land, God again wanted to wipe out the whole nation; again, Moses pleaded for mercy, and God concurred (Num. 14).
To demonstrate to Israel the appalling circumstances of the coming exile, God told the prophet Ezekiel to cook meagre food on a fire made of dry human feces. The prophet refused to do it because it was against God’s law. God accepted his view and allowed him to use dry cow dung instead (Ezek. 4:10-17). God is open to suggestions, especially when they show the dedication of the person.
To prepare the apostle Peter for the delegation sent by a gentile, God gave Peter a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven, filled with all kinds of impure animals. A voice from heaven told him to kill and eat, but Peter refused on the same grounds as Ezekiel had. The voice said, “Do not call anything impure what God has made clean.” The vision happened three times.
Peter realized he should not regard gentiles as unclean but go with them, and share the gospel.
Jacob Van Zyl of Lethbridge is a retired counsellor and the author of several faith-based books.

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