The Family in Conflict

Bible Book: 2 Samuel  18 : 29-39
Subject: Family; Home; Parenting; Marriage

You may have heard of Simeon Stylites who in the fifth century lived for thirty years on a pillar about sixty feet high. He thus sought to maintain his holiness. Deeply impressed by his action, Anatole of France desired to emulate this pious man. Not being able to secure a pillar, he improvised one by placing a chair on the kitchen table in his home. There he arrayed himself in a simple garment, intending to spend the rest of his days in holy contemplation and prayer. The cook and the rest of the family did not see eye to eye with him and altogether missed the sublimity of his intentions. They succeeded in making life so miserable for him that he discontinued his project. He wrote, "I soon perceived that it is a very difficult thing to be a saint while living with your own family! I saw why Simeon Stylites and Brother Jerome went into the desert." Many of us find it difficult to be "saints in our own home." Conflict occurs, and it hurts!

When conflict occurs in relationships which are intimate, there is an experience of pain like unto no other. When that relationship is a family relationship, the pain cuts to the bone. If you haven't had that kind of experience, then you are most blessed. Most of us have had some kind of deep-hurting relational conflict. For some, it began early.

Some of us are like the little boy who was riding his tricycle furiously around the block, over and over again. Finally a policeman stopped and asked him why he was going around and around. The boy said that he was running away from home. Then the policeman asked why he kept going around the block. The boy responded, "Because my mom said that I'm not allowed to cross the street." Family conflict begins early. The question is "How can I deal effectively with family disunity?"

We hear much about husband-wife conflict, but there is so much more. There is parent-child conflict. A poignant Biblical example, which we will study is David and Absalom. There is sibling-sibling conflict. A prime example is Cain-Abel or Jacob-Esau. There are extended family difficulties, such as those Abraham and Lot (Genesis 13) experienced.

Thus the question is important, "How can I deal effectively with family disunity?" There are other issues mass media morality attitudes of impermanence drugs, violence, Aids.

Turn with me to our focal passage, II Samuel 18:29-33. Do you sense the anguish here? The pain is intense. His army was fighting for the life of his nation, but he was concerned about his boy. David was not interested in hearing reports of battles or the disposition of enemies. All he wanted to hear was news of his son Absalom. Absalom was the son who had rebelled against David and had led the army in opposition to him. Despite that, the news that David still wanted to hear was that all was well with his son.

God wants peace in our relations and desires to help us when conflict does arise.

Let Us Recognize That The Old Saying Is True, "An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure." In other words, prevention is better than intervention. It is easy to look back and say "What if," but it is also profitable if we use the knowledge gained to prevent future difficulty.

For instance, what if David had maintained contact with his son Absalom? Actually, the seeds of rebellion had been planted years before. Absalom had killed Amnon, his half-brother, in revenge. He had fled the land. Later he returned and stayed in Jerusalem for two years before he saw his father. During all this time he was laying the groundwork for revolt. Look at 14:28.

David obviously knew that Absalom was in Jerusalem. Surely his military intelligence system was that efficient. But apparently David did not make the effort to establish the contact with his son. He could have and should have.

Absalom reacted to this lack of contact. One scholar (Philbeck) states that he could face exile or death, but he could not tolerate being ignored. When he could bear his isolation no longer, he resorted to arson to gain attention (See 14:30).

What if David had initiated the peacemaking process? What if David had at least opened the lines of positive communication?

There was no communication between David and Absalom. When communication did occur, it was strictly confrontational, or crisis oriented. This is true in 13:6, 13:24, and 14:24.

Let us seek to apply the "ounce of prevention." Where there is a relationship, immediately, consistently cultivate a positive environment. Let the love that is there find its appropriate outlet.

After years of alienation, Jacob encountered Esau. Jacob was frightened. Esau allowed his love to flow. "But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept" (Genesis 33:4).

After years, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. "Then he threw his arms round his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him" (Genesis 45:14-15).

Let the love flow in godly ways. Are you? Spend time. Studies abound on the amount of time we spend in meaningful family contact, and the results vary, but all point to a serious flaw. The average American spends 37 seconds with their child each day in meaningful communication.

Let us seek to apply the ounce of prevention. Keep the lines of communication open. Unlike David and Absalom, we need to talk. Clarify issues. When Israel was ready to destroy the 2 1/2 Transjordan tribes for their supposed transgression, honest dialogue halted a civil war in the covenant family.

What is the problem? We deal most often with symptoms. It is a spiritual problem at the heart of the matter? Let us apply the ounce of prevention.

Let Us Examine The Pound Of Cure, The Intervention. Let us learn the ABC's of this pound of cure.

I. You Must Always Remember the Father

First, always remember the Father. When our relationships are crumbling, allow the Lord to be your primary place of assistance. Recognize that only the Lord can give the love our families need the most. Isaiah 56:1 says, "Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed." Psalm 119:2 says, "Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart."

When troubles come, do you turn from the Lord, or do you draw nigh unto him?

There is a story of two simple folk who live in a fisherman's cottage in a little village by the sea. When the man came home at the end of a day, his wife said to him, "The new minister came here today, and he asked a question I couldn't answer." "What did he ask?" "He asked me," she said, "Does Jesus Christ live here?" "And what did you say?" the husband demanded. "I didn't know what to say," she answered. "Well, couldn't you tell him that we are respectable people?" he asked. "But he didn't ask me that." "Well, why didn't you tell him we go to church when we feel like it?" he queried. "But he didn't ask me that either" was her reply. "Then you could have told him that we read the Bible - sometime," he added. "But he didn't ask me that. What he asked me was, 'Does Jesus Christ live here?'"

Does Christ live in your home? Does He really live there or is He a weekend guest? David's faith did not transfer to Absalom.

II. Be Sure to Examine Your Contribution to the Problem

Be sure to examine yourself. Are you at least part of the problem? "Let a man examine himself" Paul says. Jesus says, "First take the plank out of your own eye."

III. Confront the Problem in a Loving Way

Third, confront the problem lovingly. Deal redemptively with those who have wronged you. "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over" (Matthew 18:15). We often skip this step, don't we?

In the family, we must take the lead. Be an initiator in the process of peace. Someone must break the cycle of pain. Stop the snowball effect! Break the cycle. Proverbs helps us at this point. Look at 17:19, then 17:1. Let us be peacemakers; Proverbs 15:2 says it well, "a gentle answer turns away wrath."

IV. Deal Fairly and Take an Active Part in Reconciliation of the Family

Last, we need to deal fairly in conflicts. How we need to fight fair! How we need to move to redeem relationships in turmoil. Let us break the cycle of pain. Let us be active participants in the ministry of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Don't be like the man who complained that his wife was always getting "historical." She always brought up the past! David had to meet his son on the battlefield -  what a tragedy! Sometimes we do all we can do. Just be sure that we have.


When the family, any part, is in disunity, there is a pain like unto no other. I've experienced it and so have you. Let's seek the Lord, His power to help us to dwell together in unity.