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 who ran a profitable family business and 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.
The Exit Interview
Jacob must have known that it was not very likely for his father-in-law to let him go without an explanation – which is exactly what happened. In hot pursuit Laban went after him and caught up with his son-in-law in a week’s time. Extremely offended he got right to the point (Genesis 31:26-28):
“Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’”
In response Jacob said (Genesis 31:40-42):
“This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. 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 empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he 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. He 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 a lifetime. For various reasons we cannot always choose to simply avoid the person who is bothering us; it might be a work relationship or a family member. 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 your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”
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 Lord who understands all things and is with us.