Pastor Paul

Within the land of Canaan is the city of Jerusalem. The “City of Peace,” as it is translated in English. Unfortunately, along with its territory, the city itself has arguably been the most fought-over piece of land since God promised it to Abraham and his descendants. Why does it seem like the world is in a constant state of war and strife? Why is peace so hard to obtain? Why is peace so hard to maintain? In the words of the late Rodney King, “why can’t we all just get along?” The apostle James says that strife and war come about because of the desire for pleasuring oneself, James 4:1. The Greek word used for pleasure is hedonism, which is defined as the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence. In other words, war and strife come about because we want to make ourselves happy no matter the hurt, pain, and sorrow we cause others. It’s all about me.

Of course, no one would outright say that, well, except maybe our current president, but no one would willingly admit that it’s all about them. Why? Because sadly enough, when we are in the midst of strife and contention, we can’t see the forest for the trees. 

Thus was the case of Jacob and his father-in-law Laban in Genesis 31. Laban was so engrossed in pleasuring himself by making money off his daughters and hard-working son-in-law that he did not see the strife he had caused. The conflict came to a head when Jacob and his family fled like southern slaves through the first Biblical Underground Railroad. 

Laban was furious and pursued them like a plantation owner who had lost his property. When he found them and pulled them over for no good reason, other than maybe they were “caravanning while black,” he had to admit through God’s divine intervention that Jacob did not wrong him.

The resolution to the strife did not end well for Laban. He was to part ways for the last time with his daughters and grandchildren, never to see them again. “May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another.” Genesis 31:49, also known as the Mizpah.

Unfortunately, sometimes the solution to strife is a Mizpah, a separation between parties for the benefit of all. However, this is never God’s plan. A Mizpah is a divorce, an exile of sorts from each other. It is not meant to bring healing but create a divide that will last generations. Since then, the household of Laban the Syrian has been at war with the household of Israel for over millennia. 

What could have resolved this conflict? What could have been a better solution? The answer can be found in Hebrews 13:3. “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” 

In other words, showing empathy to those you find yourself in conflict with will do more to work out a better solution than if you stick to your point of view. 

The lack of empathy is what fuels a conflict that ends with separation. When one party does not feel like they are being heard or acknowledged, it’s easy to get caught up in our feelings and stand our ground. But this does not solve anything or help anyone. It just divides us, so we become more easily conquered. 

Today, Israelis are changing Syrians’ minds about them by being empathetic towards their civil war plight. Israeli humanitarian efforts are taking care of Syrians who have been injured, starving, and have lost loved ones. The Jews are showing empathy. They are walking in the shoes of their Syrian brothers and sisters. Just a short while ago, they too were displaced, robbed of their possessions, gassed, tortured, and imprisoned by a ruthless German dictator named Adolf Hitler. Their experience has caused them to empathize with the Syrians who are fleeing their war-torn country. 

When we empathize with others, we enter into their shoes and see things from their perspective. Our position may never change. Our opinions may stay the same, but something happens when you understand what someone has gone through.

That’s what Jacob shared with Laban in Genesis 31:36-55. He told him how working for him made him feel. He listed all the times’ Laban wronged him and how he felt like a slave even though he earned everything he had. Unfortunately, Laban’s response was not one of empathy; he would rather part ways, never to see his family again than to acknowledge the pain that he had caused. 

As the old saying goes, “it takes two to tango.” Conflicts and strifes can be solved, not just by one party. Just as it takes two to argue, it takes two to come to a resolution. Both parties need to acknowledge the other’s feelings and walk in the other person’s shoes to be a lasting bond of peace.

So if you have strife going on in your life, stop looking at what the other person has done to impede your happiness, but stand in their shoes, walk-in their pain and hurt and anger and frustration, and then share your experience. 

Things may not be resolved immediately, but healing will have begun to take place. The Bible tells us that we were at enmity with God. We did him wrong, but instead of giving us a Mizpah, He gave us a Messiah.

Hebrews 2:17-18 says, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” 

Jerusalem, despite the turmoil surrounding the region among Arabs, Israelis, Syrians, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, is still called the city of peace, not because it is absent of conflict and strife, but because the people who live there and worship there are learning to walk in each other shoes. 

My prayer for you is that you will seek the peace of Jeru-Shalem. “May all who love this place prosper. O Jeru-Shalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “May you have peace.” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jeru-Shalem,” Psalms 122:6-9 NLT.

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