Part of us is always waiting and watching for the “pay back.” For the bad guy to get what’s coming to him, for the arrogant and snobbish woman to receive her comeuppance, for the villain to succumb to the hero. There is within us this longing for the books to be balanced at the end of the story. We leave the movie unsatisfied when the sinister one is allowed to flourish and prosper while the good languish and suffer. We slam the book shut when those who have behaved poorly are rewarded and those who have been honorable and upright continue to be punished. We want life to be “fair.”
And if that’s the case, and if you’ve been following along in our “Family Stories” as we have focused on Jacob for a couple of weeks, then I should warn you now: Sunday’s reading (Genesis 32:22-31) may be hard. Jacob has cheated his brother – twice – of birthright and blessing. He has essentially robbed his uncle through genetic engineering. He has demonstrated an incredible lack of human compassion and sympathy for those around him, particularly his first wife, Leah. You want this guy to get what he’s due.
When the story begins, it looks as though he might. An angel (or perhaps God himself) begins wrestling with him. You just know God will prevail. You want God to prevail. You find yourself cheering for God to prevail. And God does, of course, after resorting to a little chicanery of his own.
The thing is even with God prevailing Jacob leaves the story with blessing and a new identity. Jacob becomes Israel, Israel becomes the repository of promise and covenant, and the story moves along. Poor Esau is left only to welcome him home. It’s not…fair.
The truth be known, though, grace is hardly fair. What is grace – unmerited, unearned blessing. Jacob surely doesn’t deserve it. But then, I’m not so sure I do either. Nor you for that matter. In someone’s book, we’re the bad guys who deserve a bad ending.
The good news is that God doesn’t quite see it that way for any of us. So, while we may leave limping and wounded, we leave blessed.
Limp in Sunday and join us as we talk about it.
Grace and peace.