Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah,[c] because he said, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. – Genesis: 31:48-49
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. – Matthew 10:14
A bit of drama from the Michigan state senate gained the national spotlight recently. In a campaign mailing, Lana Theis, the state senator from Brighton, implied that state senator Mallory McMorrow, of Royal Oak, was involved in “sexually grooming” children for a supposed pedophile ring and that furthermore, Senator McMorrow is supporting something called the “raced based” education of our children.
The first accusation carries serious legal implications and should not be taken lightly. One would think that an accusation of this magnitude, with dire implications for our children’s safety, should be shared with local, federal, state authorities rather than be included in a fundraising email.
The second accusation, that of supporting “raced based education”, is overly broad and open to interpretation covering a potential spectrum between The Honorable Elijah Mohammed and The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The major focus of the life’s work of both men had to do with race, yet from entirely different angles of approach.
Senator McMorrow did not take these accusations lying down. She stood in the Michigan chamber and delivered a powerful speech refuting Senator Theis’s lies and innuendo. Furthermore, McMorrow boldly stood up for the rights of citizens who are marginalized by Theis’s stance. The speech only lasted five minutes but it resounded around the globe as a long overdue response to the increasingly fascist, authoritarian, and racist public stance of the Republican party. Senator McMorrow has been rightly celebrated for the principles, passion and integrity exemplified in her comments. But her speech is not what I’d like to focus on today. It’s what she said after the speech. When asked if she would continue to work with Senator Theis in the senate, McMorrow stated that she had no interest in working with her further.
This would seem to run counter to the orthodoxy of a lot of politicians, including our current president, and many in the media, who urge Americans to find compromise with those with whom we disagree.
I’m here to suggest that it may be time to “shake the dust off our feet”.
When I was a teenager, we used to close our Baptist Youth Fellowship meetings at my home church in St. Louis with words taken our Old Testament text: “May the Lord watch between me and thee, while we’re absent, one from another.” We discontinued the practice after someone reviewed the text leading up to that scripture and put it in proper context. In short, it’s the story of the dissolution of the relationship between Jacob, the Patriarch, and his cousin, Laban, for whom Jacob had worked for 20 years. Jacob felt that Laban had not dealt fairly with him. In fact, Jacob had been ordered by God to take his household, consisting of two of Laban’s daughters, and his share of Laban’s flock – that he’d worked for – and leave. Once he’d learned of Jacob’s surreptitious departure, Laban pursued him.
He eventually caught up with Jacob and after a lot of back and forth and rehashing of grievances, we come to what amounts to a covenant between the two men that signifies the dissolution of their relationship. However, I do not interpret this as an amicable parting. For in verse 52 and 53 Laban further states: 52 “This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.”
These men will not be visiting each other for the holidays. They have irreconcilable differences. Jacob has taken a stand for himself and for what is right. To continue to associate with Laban would be foolhardy. Likewise, rightly, or wrongly Laban feels that he is the aggrieved party. For him to continue to ally with Jacob is pointless.
Turning to our New Testament scripture, we find Jesus instructing the disciples as he sends them out to preach and heal in his name. He has been very specific in his instructions, as one would think he’d be. These are his representatives. What strikes me is that Jesus makes the disciples completely reliant on the people they will be ministering to. He instructs them to take no coin with them, to not even take any extra clothes. “… for the worker is worth his keep,” he says.
This is vital because I believe it leads to the admonition to “shake off the dust.” If the people you are ministering to and working with don’t recognize your worth – and by extension, the worth of the God in you – move on. They aren’t worth the time. In similar fashion, Jacob, God’s anointed, had labored faithfully in Laban’s household. His worth was not reciprocated in kind, so God instructed Jacob to move on. When Laban caught up with Jacob after seven days, he chastised Jacob in bad faith for “abandoning” him. When it was obviously Jacob who had been mistreated.
All of this presumes that what one is trying to accomplish aligns with the will and purpose of God. But beloved, God does not want us to waste our efforts in alliance with those who would abuse us. We are to use discernment in our alliances. And while we are not to think too highly of ourselves, this is his mission after all, we are not allowed to waste God’s time. In verse sixteen Christ admonishes his disciples to be “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.”
So, I think Senator McMorrow was in order when she declared that she no longer intended to work with Senator Theis. There is an oft quoted epigram of Maya Angelou that says, “When people show you who they are the first time believe them.” Consider that the line is part of a larger quote that reads in part, “Live your life in truth. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. You will survive anything if you live your life from the point of view of truth.” Or again, again, as the Savior said, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”