Wednesday, January 25, 2023

God is Your Witness

When Jacob takes his family and turns away from Laban and back toward home, he doesn't tell Laban that he is leaving. He can't - the man has already duped him several times and made him stay well beyond the seven years that he initially agreed to. At every turn, Laban has tricked him or outright lied to him; Jacob knows that if he declares his departure, Laban will find some way to make him stay...again. 

Sure enough, after Jacob has traveled a bit of a distance, here comes Laban in hot pursuit. How dare you take my daughters without even letting me say goodbye? How dare you take my grandchildren without a final hug from me? He turns the story against Jacob - what are you trying to do to me? Are you treating me unfairly? 

The two men exchange words, sharing their perspectives and their experiences of one another (Laban's is mostly manipulative, not authentic - but you could probably expect that), and after they have aired their hearts, they decide on a plan that is amenable to both: 

Let us erect an altar here that will stand as a witness between us. I won't cross it to come and hurt you, and you won't cross it to come and hurt me. The Lord will stand in this place and watch; He is our witness. 

So they build an altar. 

And this is one of the things that I think we have lost about how we can use God in our relationships. Too often, I think, we believe God is standing on our side of a disagreement. We believe that He has taken up our position with us. We believe that when we come into conversation, even simple conversation, with someone with whom we disagree or someone we think has wronged us, we come with God standing behind us as "the muscle." We are in the right, and our God will prove it. The mere fact that He stands with us is evidence enough. 

But what if God doesn't stand with us in conflict, but stands between us? What if God stands as a witness between two parties, between us and someone we think has wronged us? What if we erect an altar and make our disagreement a place for mutual worship, where we can both call on God and trust in His perspective? 

It would change the way we disagree with one another, that's what. At the very least.  

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