Difficult Passages: Conflict Old and New

Difficult Passages: Conflict Old and New

As last week’s lectionary passage from Luke resonates in our memories, I cannot resist citing a link to Rev. Cam Miller’s sermon for last Sunday [http://subversivepreacher.com/2013/10/20/the-physics-of-pain-or-gallstones-of-the-soul/. ] His sermon calls us to look into conflicts that we avoid above all costs —even people that we avoid—as the judge does in the story of the widow seeking justice in Luke 18.  His sermon also challenges us to struggle with God, just like Jacob did on the night his name was changed to Israel (in Genesis 32).  Dealing with and discussing these issues may also help us resolve that very difficult passage that is only one chapter away from the Jacob wrestling match—the story of the rape of Dinah in Chapter 34.  Dinah’s rape and the terrible revenge for it that Jacob’s sons took forces us to consider the position of women in that age and in ours. It is so difficult to imagine ourselves in another culture, in an age when women were protected by their husbands, brothers, fathers but no one else, and could be traded for money, land, and power.   In the Genesis story, we moderns get the distinct impression that the rape was avenged not so much for Dinah’s honor as for the tribe of Israel’s honor.  The Israelites were offered assimilation by the Canaanites—what’s ours is yours, even our own wives and daughters—and they were having none of it. Trust was surely an issue, of course, when it comes to cultures merging in such a way, and the narrator of this chapter in Genesis reveals in the story that something devious was happening as the Canaanites made their ‘generous’ offer to the Israelites: “Will not their livestock, their property, and all their animals be ours?  Only let us agree with them, and they will live among us” (Gen. 34:23). And so the issues of living together were never put on the table and seen for what they were.  The list would have been long: who is your God?  Monotheism.  Laws.  Promises from God.  Who did the land belong to?   Would negotiating these issues  have helped?  Or would this discussion have prevented both sides from ever agreeing to joint living arrangements in that land?   What do you think? In marital engagements, before the couple say the powerful three words (I love you!), shouldn’t they have a few fights first?  Shouldn’t they test whether they can approach and resolve conflict or will soon develop the habit of avoiding it?   Like a man in the ad saying: “Here I am in this bathtub, watching the sun set, and you are in the bathtub next to me, and we are supposedly waiting for the ‘time to be right;’ but as...

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