This week our guest writer Scott Parker, a pastor at Park Community Church, asks us to sacrifice our pride to continue our work of solidarity in the neighborhood.
“When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, ‘We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.’” - Genesis 32:6
In Genesis chapter 31, God spoke. Jacob obeys. He flees the exploitive relationship with his father-in-law and dashes off to the promise land. He leaves with no notice. And when Laban, his father-in-law, realizes Jacob is actually gone, he chases after him. But Jacob isn’t lured back. He confronts Laban and tells him what he thinks of him. Laban backs down and finally his unjust treatment, his scheming, has caught up to him and he loses both his daughters and his most productive employee. It’s a feel-good moment. The bad guy has lost. The good guy has won. The next day angels appear to Jacob. Heaven has come down. Jacob has gone from glory to glory. “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty...”
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Work in the neighborhood can be like this sometimes. You finally see an addicted single mom walk into a recovery program. You confront the drug dealer, survive and he stops selling. Rent is due, and you can’t pay because you’ve been doing the work for free. “I’m seeking you first,” you cry out. Then someone shows up the next day with a check. God is with you.
“Of course he is,” something starts to whisper, “you made the hard choice, you took up your cross, you followed when others didn’t...You must be one of his favorites.”
And maybe you are.
God help you.
In chapter 32, Jacob’s sins come to meet him. He had swindled his warrior-hunter brother. He had stolen the blessing and tricked him out of his birthright. Fourteen years of free labor gave Jacob the moral high ground with his father-in-law. Yet against Esau this was not so. With Laban, Jacob could cry out for justice, but with Esau, justice would mean his own destruction.
In this season, where are we feeling self-righteous? Where are we feeling worthy? Is it because of our work with the poor? Are we God’s special child because of just how many people we’ve helped? Or victories we’ve won? Rules we’ve kept, memorized, studied?
In the end Jacob prayed “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau.” - Genesis 32:9-11