Formations Lesson for August 15- Conflict and Boundaries
July 30 2010 by Don Gordon, senior pastor, Yates Baptist Church, Durham

Focal Passages: Gen. 31:1-9, 17-21, 25-26, 36-42, 51-54

Boundaries exist because of conflict — potential or actual. If all things were bliss there would be no need for boundaries. The saying is true: “Good fences make good neighbors.” Why? Fences are helpful because neighbors are fallible human beings whose instincts for self-interest are powerful. Currently our nation is engaged in a strident conversation about what to do about our national boundaries. One group wants to create stronger boundaries to slow the wave of illegal immigration coming across the border from the south. Another group wants to loosen the boundaries and offer a “pathway to citizenship” to those who came to our country illegally.

The saga of boundary-making, boundary-breaking Jacob continues in Genesis 31 presenting Jacob on the run again from someone and to a place he hopes will become a refuge. This time Jacob is running from the father of both his wives, Rachel and Leah. After 20 years, the relationship is breaking down. Laban’s sons have grown resentful of Jacob and the growth of his flocks. Jacob feels threatened by them and doesn’t trust Laban, for good reason. Again and again Laban has altered the contracts they had with one another. Jacob believes it’s time to go, so in the middle of the night, he packs his bags, grabs his wives, and drives his flocks back to the land of Canaan. When Laban learns that his son-in-law has run away he pursues him and ultimately catches up with him.

After a heated argument and a thorough search for stolen property Laban and Jacob agree to a truce. They create a boundary. They heap up stones that would serve as a “witness” between the two of them. They agree not to transgress the boundary and cross to the other side to harm the other.

It would be great if Jacob and Laban could’ve reconciled, signed a peace treaty, and agreed to a free and fair trade deal.

It would be a foretaste of the Christian ethic for them to kiss, hug, and declare, “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.” But most relational, international, and political outcomes fall short of God’s glory. The next best thing, in the meantime, is a recognizable boundary that enhances the prospects of peace.

If Sunday School class has become boring, take a risk and have a discussion about national immigration policy with this text in mind. Only remember we have an Old Testament and temporary solution in this chapter that doesn’t pretend to follow the ethic of Jesus. Do a word search for “alien” using to prepare for a healthy discussion (esp. Ex. 22:21, Lev. 19:34, 23:22).  
7/30/2010 3:38:00 AM by Don Gordon, senior pastor, Yates Baptist Church, Durham | with 0 comments

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