RESOLVING FAMILY CONFLICT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Since we will be talking about conflict in the family, here are some funny memes that I’ve come across about the family:
- “My family is temperamental, half temper and half mental.”
- “Our family is just one tent away from a full blown circus.”
- Mother to daughter – “You are going to be fine. You come from a strong line of lunatics.”
- People: “Wow! Your family is nice.” Me: “Fools…You know nothing of the dark side.”
- “My doctor asked if any members of my family suffered from insanity. I replied, ‘No, we all seem to enjoy it.’”
- Every family has one weird relative. If you don’t know who it is, then it’s probably you.
There’s no drama like family drama. Having said that, family is still worth having. As you know, we’ve been studying the family of Abraham and Sarah through the Book of Genesis, looking at their good and bad decisions and the impact they had on later generations. This morning we come to the third generation, the family of Jacob and Rachel and Leah. We’re going to learn from them how to resolve family conflict.
Genesis 31 46 Then Jacob said to his brethren, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 And Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore its name was called Galeed, 49 also Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another. 50 If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us—see, God is witness between you and me!”
Question: Is there conflict in your family? Has some family member offended you? Has some family member been offended by you? Have things happened and words exchanged that have led to hurt feelings, anger, and broken relationships? Has the Holy Spirit been convicting your heart to make things right? Have you taken steps to reconcile? Are you saved? If you are, then do you know that as believers we have been given the ministry of reconciliation?
Context of the Message: If you remember from last time, Esau was angry with Jacob because, in his view, Jacob had cheated him off his birthright. Word began to spread that Esau was waiting for his father to die so he could kill his brother. When Rebecca, their mother, heard about it she called Jacob and listen to what she said to him – Genesis 27 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. 44 And stay with him a few days, (Remember that, not few months or a year or 10 years, and definitely not 20 years!) until your brother’s fury turns away,” 45 “…then I will send and bring you from there.” The plan was for Jacob to stay only a few days with Uncle Laban. Why? Rebekah knew her brother. We’ll see what that means in a few moments. Let’s begin with reading what happened when Jacob got to uncle’s place.
Genesis 29 13 Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house…14 And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.”
Context: To a causal reader, this is no big deal – “Uncle is glad to see his nephew.” But there’s more intended here. To understand the true intent, you need to put on the glasses of Jewish or Hebrew humor every time there is an interaction between Uncle Laban and Nephew Jacob. They are constantly trying to one up on each other. Y’all remember the old cartoons “Spy versus Spy”? This is just like that.
Let’s read again – 14 And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” Translated: Poor nephew. You are in a safe place now. You are with Uncle Laban. Trust me. We’re family. I’ll take care of you. “And he stayed with him for a month.”
Principle: Extended stays usually end up in unnecessary strife. Love grows at a distance and it shrivels up close.
Now begins the Spy vs Spy Story:
It begins with Laban – Genesis 29:15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?” If I were Jacob, my response to him would be “Am I working for you? Did I say, ‘I need a job.’” It’s sneaky what Laban is doing. He is restructuring the relationship from family to employee. He also knows that Jacob seems to be attracted to Rachel, his younger daughter. In a round about way he is trying to strike a deal with Jacob. He is trying to get Jacob to go to work for him.
Jacob is eager to strike a deal – Genesis 29 18 Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.” Jacob is in love. The average bride price was 30-40 shekels back then. Jacob was probably paid a shekel a month. He’s working for twice the amount required! 19 And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.
Laban gets one up on Jacob – Genesis 29 22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob…25 So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. You would think a man would know if he had the wrong woman on the wedding night. Apparently not! Maybe it was the lack of any lights in the tent. Maybe she had a veil.
Listen to Jacob’s response – Genesis 29 25 “…And he said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?’” He’s upset! I would be too!
For e.g. When I was in seminary, many years ago, a family member sold us his car. In about a month or so, the antifreeze leaked out and the engines locked up. Needless to say, the car had to be totaled. Nicole remembers how mad I was with this person.
What is Laban’s response? Genesis 29 26 And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.” 28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. Laban is quite the wheeler and the dealer. He locks Jacob into a 14-year contract now. Apparently, he had no problem with men having multiple wives. This was not Jacob’s idea.
It’s been 14 years now. Jacob is tired of Uncle Laban. After Rachel had Joseph, he came to Laban and said in Genesis 30 25 “…Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.” 27 And Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake.” 28 Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.” Jacob is not falling for it this time. 29 So Jacob said to him, “You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me. 30 For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the LORD has blessed you since my coming. And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?” Meaning: It’s time for me to work for myself.
Now its Jacob’s turn to get back at Uncle Laban for tricking him with Rachel – Genesis 30 31 So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks: 32 Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. Jacob makes a proposition to Laban. Let all the speckled and spotted animals be mine. In other words, all the abnormal ones are mine. You get to keep all the one-colored normal ones. Laban liked that. That’s about 20% of the one-colored Awassi fa-tailed sheep and black goats. He took the irregular abnormal ones of Jacob and left them with his sons. He let Jacob take care of the one-colored animals. Now, Jacob does something that is very odd and mysterious. He takes those one-colored normal animals of Laban and exposes them to shoots of various trees. Some call this ancient science and some call it genetic engineering. Either way, Jacob was pretty smart. Somehow he knew the difference between genotype and phenotype. Genotype is your genetic identity, your personal genome. It’s in you but we can’t see it. Phenotype is your actual physical features, your visible characteristics. It’s not hidden in you. You can actually see it. Jacob knew that even though the sheep and goats were all white on the surface, they still carried the genetic code for the speckled and spotted variety. According to the law of heredity, he crossed the heterozygotes among themselves and in turn he had more and more of his share than Laban’s. Smart guy! What’s the result? Genesis 30 42 But when the flocks were feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s. 43 Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.
Six years later Laban got word of what Jacob had done to him. Needless to say, he’s mad! Jacob hears about and he calls the two sisters, his wives together and tells them in Genesis 31 6 “And you know that with all my might I have served your father. 7 Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.” Now listen to the response of Jacob’s wives, Laban’s daughters – Genesis 31 14 Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money. 16 For all these riches which God has taken from our father are really ours and our children’s; now then, whatever God has said to you, do it.” I can imagine that Jacob is relieved that both Rachel and Leah are with him on the matter.
It’s not over yet. Genesis 31:19 “Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s.” Why??? Maybe she still believed in those false gods. Maybe it was to guaranty her inheritance. Maybe it was to give her right to be head of the family unit. Maybe they represented deceased ancestors. Honestly, who knows! Later it will have some horrible repercussion on the people of Israel. They will worship these gods…
Back to Laban – Three days later he hears about it. He pursues them. God warns him in a dream not to harm Jacob and his family. He finally catches up. Listen to what he says in Gen. 31:26 And Laban said to Jacob: “What have you done, that you have stolen away unknown to me, and carried away my daughters like captives taken with the sword? 27 Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp? 28 And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters. Now you have done foolishly in so doing…30 “…why did you steal my gods?” Jacob tells him to kill the person who has his gods. Laban searches through Jacob’s tent, Leah’s tent, Rachel’s tent, the two maidservants tents, and nothing. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them. And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them. 35 And she said to her father, “Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me.” And he searched but did not find the household idols.
Listen to Jacob’s self-righteous response in Genesis 31 36 Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: “What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me? 37 Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Jacob has no clue that Rachel, his lovely wife is the culprit! Then you know they built the altar and called it Mizpah.
What a mess! Let me give you a few suggestions in resolving family conflict.
- Keep your sense of humor.
- Lower your expectation.
- Don’t allow bitterness to control your life.
- Learn to get along.
- Don’t let family come between you and God’s plan for your life.
- Be Christlike in everything.
Are you saved? Is their strife in your family? How about doing what you can to reconcile? Are you letting your family keep you from following God?