Genesis 27 recounts the story of Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing from their father, Isaac. I would encourage you to take just a few moments and read that chapter in its entirety.
In the story, Jacob, with the help of his mother, deceives Isaac into believing he is really Esau, the firstborn. While his brother is out hunting and preparing a meal for their father, Jacob puts on fake hairy arms, dresses in his brother’s clothes, and goes in to his father with a stew prepared by his mother. Isaac’s eyesight is failing and he is confused, but the arms feel like Esau’s, the clothes smell like Esau’s, and the stew tastes like Esau’s. So, it must be Esau.
Isaac blesses Jacob with the blessing that belonged to his brother. When Esau finds out what happened, he is furious and threatens to kill Jacob once their father dies.
This was not the first time Jacob and Esau had a disagreement. From the story, we see there obviously were some hard feelings. Generally, brothers don’t steal from one another when they have a healthy relationship.
In the story we also see that, apparently, Isaac and Rebekah had never sat down with the brothers to try and reconcile things between them. In fact, each parent had their favorite child and made no secret about it. All this led to a growing hostility within the family.
Now, you ask, what on earth does this have to do with church replanting and revitalization?
Well, first of all, I certainly hope you’ve never experienced death threats among church members. If you have, you may need to bring in some outside counsel — and security! While death threats probably are not commonplace in churches, anger, bitterness, and deceit often are. And, like Jacob and Esau, if anger and bitterness are allowed to go unchecked, it will destroy the church family, just as it destroyed Isaac and Rebekah’s family.
Many churches in need of replanting or revitalization have a history of spiritual abuse or neglect in some form. Previous leadership may have taken advantage of unsuspecting church members. Church bullies may have bulldozed their way over others to to get their way. Wounded church members became angry and bitter; the conflicts never were resolved.
Often, all this bitterness may simmer for years under the surface of tense business meetings. Bitterness kills fellowship, stifles worship, and steals joy from believers, and robs God of glory.
What was the result of Jacob and Esau’s family split? Jacob fled Esau’s wrath. Rebekah lost her favorite son and, as far as we can tell from the biblical record, she never saw his face again. Jacob’s life of deception and chaos continued for years.
Thankfully, that’s not the end. Eventually, Jacob and Esau were reconciled. The beautiful picture of grace and forgiveness is recorded in Genesis 33. Even for churches that have experienced unbelievable pain, heartache, neglect, spiritual abuse, anger, and bitterness, there is still hope. God loves healing what was once broken — broken lives and broken churches.
So, if there are underlying tensions in your church, pastor, gently bring them to the surface. If there is longstanding bitterness between church members, plead with the Lord and with the individuals involved for reconciliation. If your church has a bad reputation in your community, repent and begin rebuilding bridges where you can.
Most of all, be patient and trust the Lord to do what only He can do. It probably was around 20 years before Jacob and Esau reconciled, but they did. Their relationship was restored.
If there was hope for them, I dare say there’s hope for your church as well.,
Published February 4, 2020