The Wisdom of Jacob: Lessons in Conflict Management
King Solomon is famed for asking God for wisdom and getting it in abundance with a bonus. Wisdom and Solomon are frequently mentioned in the same breath. But there is another man who demonstrated wisdom in a life-threatening situation.
If a man can assuage the anger of someone he had robbed of a birthright, I think that is phenomenal. Such a man has something to teach us on managing bitter conflicts.
The return of the supplanter
In the Bible book of Genesis, there is an account of how Jacob negotiated his return after eloping with his brother's birthright.
When Esau heard that Jacob was on his way, he mustered a 400-man strong army for the meet-and-greet. Who needs an army that large to welcome his brother at the airport? It was obvious Esau had an intention and there was going to be a showdown.
Jacob was not delusional about how explosive the situation could become. He knew his brother could be coming for a well-deserved pound of his flesh.
But Jacob would not just walk his entire family and hard-earned possessions into the burning fury of Esau. He reorganised his entourage to minimize the impact of any confrontation. He sent advance parties ahead with gifts for Esau.
When Jacob finally came face to face with Esau, he bowed to the ground, not once but seven times. Esau was reluctant in accepting the gifts, but he could not resist Jacob's humble attitude and disposition.
Many conflicts remain unresolved for years and through many generations because nobody is humble enough to make the first move. Conflicts endure when nobody is willing to be the first to flinch.
Sending men ahead to meet Esau and to offer him gifts with such a humble disposition was game-changing. It would have assured Esau that Jacob had changed. He was no longer the antagonistic, deceitful, and fraudulent brother. This is a "giving" Jacob and no longer the "taker or supplanter".
Embrace of a new heart
The Bible records that Esau ran to meet and embrace Jacob. For a man like Esau who was hurting for years to run into the embrace of a man who robbed him, that is a big deal.
Some folks may argue to promote the role of divine intervention in the encounter. But that is where they miss it. This is why people miss out on opportunities for personal transformation. They abdicate personal responsibility and remain unwilling to negotiate conflict with maturity.
Jacob did pray the night before he met Esau. But he did not only pray. He also acted. God changed him overnight. He acted out his new identity and that was enough for Esau. No wonder Esau wept for joy and forgot about the birthright. The weight and pain of animosity had lifted from his shoulder.
Faith without works...
Sometimes, people sit back and wait for God to move behind the scenes. They neglect what is within their power to do. God will do what God can do, but you must do what only you can do.
It could be conflict, or something else. Jacob was able to stem the tide of revenge by taking action. God only needed to change Jacob, and that change moved him to act in a way that Esau could not resist.
Are you waiting for others to change before you can enjoy peace? Think again. Maybe you should be the change. Show them how much you have changed.
Whatever it is that threatens your peace or happiness, pray but take some actions. Make that move today.
Story based on Genesis 32 & 33. Photo credit: Oziel Gomez in Unsplash.
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