Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Jacob Learns of His Cousin’s Complaints -- Genesis 31:1-3


Now Jacob heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, "Jacob has taken away all that was our father's, and from what belonged to our father he has made all this wealth." Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly. Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”

Jacob heard about what was going on behind his back. We all hear sooner or later. Those of us who have an ear for this kind of thing, who stop long enough to think about situations, and have a knack for putting two and two together or finding ways to join separate clues into a bigger picture, sooner or later find out what is going on.

It’s one thing to get a wind of what’s going on behind one’s back, but it’s another to actually correctly assess the right cause. Experience has taught me that many times, it is either conscious or unconscious jealousy. That was certainly the cause behind what Laban’s sons were saying. For starters, they accuse him of “taking away all that was (their) fathers”. The real jealousy comes in when they detest the fact that Jacob’s wealth was built on what originally was their father’s. They completely leave out the reality that what Jacob got was indeed part and parcel of a fair trade and an arrangement with Laban.

As I spend some portion of my time each day communicating what I am passionate about on various social media networks, I realize how easy it is for people, myself included, to have incomplete and sometimes erroneous perspectives on things. Sometimes these are unavoidable. What is crucial for success, however, is that once these are identified, we are willing to take the different or additional perspective into consideration and not only revise our thinking accordingly, but also our actions. Not doing so, not only limits our ability to see the external world correctly, but also impacts our relationships and influence on others in the future.

In the case of Laban’s sons, we note that greed is one of the key driving forces behind the faulty or incomplete perception. Were they really worried about the fact that Jacob may have taken their father’s herds for their father’s sake, or was it for the sake of their inheritance?

Interestingly enough, most children are impacted by the attitudes of their parents. Girls in particular are impacted by what they see their mother say, do, and feel. Boys likewise often end up mimicking their fathers in taking on certain attitudes. But here in Genesis we see that the father Laban was indeed impacted by what his boys were saying and feeling. As a result his attitude changed towards Jacob. He became unfriendly and Jacob was fully aware of it. Another reason why perception must be as close to reality as it possibly can is that it impacts relationships. One or both of the parties involved have stopped many a great friendship in its tracks because of blurring perceptions. This often happens in marriage as well if we do not take the time to bring the perceptions into a clear and common focus to the extent possible.

I once shared on one of the social media the following, crediting Bill Hybels with the idea: “Are people of your past still living in you, rent free? Kick them out. Do ‘forgiveness business’ with God today and be set free. I dare you to forgive those people.” One reader replied, “Once we’ve forgiven are we prepared to invite them to dinner?” It was a very good point, but the answer I would provide may not have been what you would expect. I wrote, “I believe there are times when that is most necessary and there are times, when it is best not to. Remember, it's just you that has forgiven them. So, if it's family, you take the risk and have them for dinner. If it's some other scenario, and having them for dinner will only hurt them and you more, just forgive them.” Another reader said it much better, “Sometimes you just have to forgive and move on - it is not acceptance. You do not have to spend time together but you can choose not to hate, and dwell in the hurt.” I think she was right. There are times like that. And I believe our passage supports it for look what happens next.

Just when Jacob was feeling down in the dumpster given the change of attitude that his uncle and cousins had, God speaks to him and gives him divine direction. God says, “Jacob get home where you belong and I am going to be with you.” That is all the instruction that anyone can ever need. The source is God; the directive is clear; and the promise is God will go with him so we know he’ll make it there.

Have you ever felt so low in life that you wish you had a message like that? I have and I am sure if you were honest, you would say you have as well. Well, the good news is that you and I have a message just like that. Yes, from God. The entire Bible is God’s rescue message as well as His love letter for us. All we ever have to do is “return home” where we belong. He created us and He wants us to be in close relationship with Him. We need to leave “where we’re at” in trying to run our own life and “go home”. And here’s the greatest part of this direction – we get to “go home with Him”.

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