Jacob chose to pack up and leave without telling his father-in-law Laban. The relationship with his father-in-law was complicated. On one hand Laban was the father of his wives and the grandfather of his children; Laban was family! On the other hand Laban was his boss. Running a profitable family business Jacob was one of his employees. Like any bad boss would do, Laban had been taking advantage of Jacob. After 20 years of a working relationship Jacob fired his employer by not showing up to work one day and leaving without giving any notice. Jacob must have known that it was not very likely for his father-in-law to let him go without an explanation. Below is an excerpt of the exit interview after Laban caught up with Jacob:
The Exit Interview
Laban asking accusatory questions (Genesis 31:26-28): “What do you mean by deceiving me like this?” Laban demanded. “How dare you drag my daughters away like prisoners of war? Why did you slip away secretly? Why did you deceive me? And why didn’t you say you wanted to leave? I would have given you a farewell feast, with singing and music, accompanied by tambourines and harps. Why didn’t you let me kiss my daughters and grandchildren and tell them good-bye? You have acted very foolishly! I could destroy you, but the God of your father appeared to me last night and warned me, ‘Leave Jacob alone!’”
Jacob’s reply (Genesis 31:40-42): “I worked for you through the scorching heat of the day and through cold and sleepless nights. Yes, for twenty years I slaved in your house! I worked for fourteen years earning your two daughters, and then six more years for your flock. And you changed my wages ten times! In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side—the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac —you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why he appeared to you last night and rebuked you!”
Laban saw that he had lost access to his daughters and grandchildren and that he could not control Jacob. His reaction was dismissive. Laban was not interested in restoring family relations by picking up on what Jacob said and apologizing; instead he now perceived Jacob as a threat and felt it necessary to protect his interests by establishing a non-aggression pact.
We all deal with bad relationships in the course of our life. For various reasons we cannot always choose to simply avoid the person who is bothering us. It might be a relationship at work; it might be a family member; obviously God does not take sides in the matter because He is for every person. However, we can count on God being against sin. So, if someone is abusive and makes our life a living hell God’s intention is to take us out of the abusive situation. Merciful as God is His heart always reaches out to all parties, so communication is God’s attempt to set the records straight and give each person the opportunity to repent – each person – because nobody is perfect. In Matthew’s gospel we read:
Matthew 18:15: “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.”
If we all come to the table and communicate with the intention to listen what the opposing party has to say, there is a good chance of reconciliation. If both parties choose not to listen to each other, then reconciliation is as good as impossible. In the end, all Laban and Jacob were able to accomplish was a non-aggression pact. In God’s eyes this was not the best outcome, and sometimes we too have to live with these kinds of situations.
In our crisis management let’s always raise the bar in that we stay humble enough to listen, strong enough to seek open communication, and mature enough to understand when it is time to move on and let go of a relationship. Some things won’t resolve on this side of heaven. However, peace is promised to us; and peace we receive from the Almighty who understands all things and holds our lives in His very capable hands.
John 14:27: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”