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Do I Have to Love Everyone Today?

Do I Have to Love Everyone Today?

This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass over this heap to you, and you will not pass over this heap and this pillar to me, to do harm. . . and Jacob offered a sacrifice in the hill country and called his kinsmen to eat bread. Genesis 31:52-54

In reading today’s blog about family relations, you may be tempted to speculate about whom I’m writing. Let me start by saying that today’s blog is not inspired by anyone in my own family. Rather, it’s about those people in life with whom I just don’t connect well. Today is Thanksgiving though, and today’s passage is about family relations, so I’m extrapolating from many relationships in my life in to write, not about my specific family, but about family relations in general.

The Bible teaches that we’re supposed to love everyone. The problem is that we don’t naturally like everyone. This isn’t a choice. It’s just an emotional reaction. There are simply those people in our lives with whom we don’t get along. So, what do we do when life forces us to interact with acquaintances and family that we’d never choose to spend time with otherwise? For many of us, this is a painful Thanksgiving reality as we must sit across the table from an uncle who continually spouts his crazy/racist/offensive political views.

Today’s passage speaks to this issue. In the story, Jacob and his family secretly fled from his double-crossing uncle Laban, who was displeased at their departure and pursued them. When Laban caught up with Jacob, he voiced his anger and Jacob replied in anger. The two did not like each other, but they were family. They were never going to get along, but they also desired to come to some mutual agreement to be respectful to each other. So, they arranged a stone monument, ate a meal together, and made a covenant. Jacob was charged with taking good care of his wives, which were Laban’s daughters. Laban was charged with never crossing the stone boundary to attack Jacob. They made vows in the sight of God to treat each other well – even though they didn’t like each other.

I’m not saying we must erect monuments or make covenants this Thanksgiving, but when forced to interact with those whom we don’t naturally like, we can still behave in a manner that is obedient to God. Liking someone is an emotion, which we can’t simply change. Still, we can choose to speak and act in kindness. We may be justified in our dislike and bitterness towards those who’ve treated us poorly, but our resentment is most toxic to us, and so, for our own emotional and spiritual health, we must act rightly ourselves. Boundaries – like Jacob’s pile of stones – may be appropriate, but still, we’re responsible only for our own behavior and for our part, we must always speak and act in love, even if we don’t like that crazy uncle very much.

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