In true Sesame Street fashion, this week’s readings are brought to you by the word ‘sneaky’. You cannot read the story of Jacob without the overriding sense that he plays by the rules (at least some of the time), but oh so sneakily! In Paul’s writings in 2 Corinthians and Galatians, it is not Paul who is sneaky, but those who are attempting to usurp the gospel he had preached to the two groups – their words sound similar, but Paul is very (very!) clear that they are not to be trusted.
Let’s face it, Jacob is devious – he is difficult to admire as a Bible hero; manipulating and tricking to get what he wants. However, he is also tricked in return by Laban into marrying Leah first. Throughout many years of tit-for-tat deception with Laban, Jacob holds onto God’s promise, which is reaffirmed in a dream. We get to find out how his story ends next week.
It is hard to know what to take from Jacob’s story; there is something to be said for trusting faithfully in God’s promises while making the most of opportunities that are in your power to help bring about those promises. Perhaps the uncomfortable sneakiness of how Jacob goes about his journey prompts us to think about how we conduct ourselves – are we making wise choices that we can say we are proud of, in good conscience? Or perhaps we need to hear that (for at least a good while), Jacob works diligently for Laban, even though he is being manipulated himself – it is often when faithfully working in the mundane, or even difficult circumstances that we can shine as an example for others in showing respect, working consciensciously, in making the best of situations.
Working faithfully despite the sneakiness or manipulation of others is the theme picked up by Paul in our New Testament readings. In both 2 Corinthians and the beginning two chapters of Galatians Paul is at his emotion filled best. Paul provides a good example of someone not afraid to say when he disagrees, but always for the sake of the gospel. He is realistic in defending his work against ‘false apostles’ in Corinth, yet humble in recognising that it is Christ’s power in him that has accomplished all this. He also recognises and uses helpful forms for resolving conflict. It is good to say when things are not right, but there are sensitive ways to do this – giving warnings, writing down his thoughts first so there is space to reflect, using others as witnesses and mediators, not ignoring or hiding from issues… something we could all learn from!
This week, as we return to maybe more settled routines after the summer, think about how you are going to share Jesus’ love with those around you:
Is it by re-committing to work diligently, wherever God has placed you, even when it can be frustrating?
Is it by standing up for yourself/others when you have been wronged, but doing so in a loving, gracious way?
Is it by arguing in a sensitive way when the need arises?!