Photo by Matheus Viana
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24 AMP)
We are facing real issues of injustice in our nation right now. The deaths of Floyd, Arbery and Taylor are deeply painful wounds in a long standing and evil injustice. People are profoundly hurt and justifiably angry! It is an injustice that is wounding our hearts and souls, and our nation. It needs to end now! I truly believe most people are united in the desire to bring this evil to an end. How do we seek justice without going to war against each other? How do we create safe places for people to speak their pain and hurt in a way that fosters true healing and unity? That is unity, NOT uniformity.
In studying the life of Jacob I have found my way through. I have found my voice. I am not saying I have all the answers. I don’t. However, in Jacob’s story I see a way to address the situation. The thing that has stood out to me most in this study, is the relationships, especially the relationship between Jacob and Laban.
Jacob worked for Laban for 20 years, 14 of those as an indentured servant. Throughout their relationship, Laban operated deceptively and opportunistically. At every turn he cheated Jacob. When he did agree to pay Jacob, Laban continually changed the terms of Jacobs pay to benefit himself and keep Jacob indentured. It was one betrayal after another. In that time Laban profited tremendously from Jacobs abilities and favor with God.
It is the hallmark of the abuser to devalue others and see them only as tools to be used. Laban valued Jacob only for what he could get from Jacob and used him. By contrast Jacob valued Laban as a creation of the almighty and dealt with him with integrity. Jacob exercised great integrity and humility. To be VERY clear; humility is NEVER to be understood as passively complying with someone who uses and abuses you! Real humility, the humility that Jacob displayed, was to acknowledge Laban as a human being made in the image of God, whether Laban reflected it or not. Jacob submitted himself to God, then dealt with Laban was an extension of his relationship with God. That takes real strength of character and True integrity.
After 20 years of servitude, Jacob asked to leave with his family. Laban offered Jacob a salary. Laban doesn’t do this from a place of integrity. He does it so he can continue to benefit from Jacob’s skill and favor with God. Because Jacob is following God’s lead, he agrees to Laban’s terms for wages. True to character Laban continues to use and cheat him.
Amazingly, Jacob didn’t use Laban’s breach of contract as a reason, though justified, to go to war with him. Instead of fighting against Laban’s deception and treachery, Jacob stays within the terms of the contract and allows God to turn events to Jacobs benefit. No matter how Laban cheated, God used Laban’s treachery to benefit Jacob. Because he followed God’s lead, Jacob prevailed and God was able to prosper and protect him in a way that would have been impossible otherwise.
Ultimately God Himself deals the blow that ends Laban’s abuses. God tells Jacob he is free to go without Laban’s consent and warns Laban to leave Jacob unmolested. Laban can’t quite do that, so he confronts Jacob about ‘sneaking away’. Jacob responds, “if the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the fear of Isaac, had not been with me you would surely have sent me away now empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and humiliation and the labor of my hands and rebuked you.” (Gen. 31:42) It is Laban who walks away empty-handed. Jacob prevails.
Jacob’s integrity and humility in the face of Laban’s injustice are why he prevails. It is one of the reasons God changed his name to Israel. Israel means contender or one who prevails. Jacob contended with Laban, but it wasn’t all out war. Like a prizefighter, Jacobs made choices and took actions based on godly values and principles. As a result, Jacob prevailed. I want to believe that Laban was changed through this interaction but I honestly don’t know. What I do know is I need to choose whose lead will I follow?
Will I be like Laban valuing people only for what I can get out of them to further my agenda?
Will I choose to be like Jacob and acknowledge the image of God in everyone and treat them with integrity and respect?
Like Jacob we follow God’s lead in the present and demonic situation. We do what God tells us to do and move when he calls us to move. We allow humility and integrity to direct our actions. We acknowledge and honor the image of God in every human being. We speak humbly with the strength of the Spirit. We wrestle with God and NEVER let go until He changes our name, until He transforms us into godly contenders who prevail without destroying. Then whatever God tells us to do, we do it! Perhaps then God can bring an end to the humiliation and affliction of racism.