Neither Aggression nor Assimilation

Scripture Focus: Genesis 34.20-23
20 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city to speak to the men of their city. 21 “These men are friendly toward us,” they said. “Let them live in our land and trade in it; the land has plenty of room for them. We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours. 22 But the men will agree to live with us as one people only on the condition that our males be circumcised, as they themselves are. 23 Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us agree to their terms, and they will settle among us.”

Reflection: Neither Aggression nor Assimilation

By John Tillman

To their faces, Shechem and his son, Hamor, talk to Jacob’s family about unity and “love.” They want to be one people. However, Shechem and Hamor reveal to the leaders of their city a deceitful plan that is less unity than uniformity. It is less cooperation and more assimilation.

It is their intention to absorb Jacob and his family into their own land, their own traditions, their own people. What they want is for Israel’s family to lose their identity and uniqueness. They expect them to give up their God, their customs, their beliefs, and their property. All of this brought about by “rape.”

There is no Hebrew word for “rape.” The euphemism, lie down, is used for sexual contact of any kind, including consensual or marital sex. However, the word, took, carries the hint of violence. It is sometimes translated married but literally means carry away or take and carry. It is often used for inanimate objects or prisoners of war. This same word describes the “sons of God” taking the daughters of men. (Genesis 6.1-2) This same word describes Lamech, the first sinful polygamist of the Bible, taking two wives, Adah and Zillah. (Genesis 4.19-24)

The anger Jacob’s sons feel about what has happened to Dinah comes from their identity. They consider it something that is “outrageous in Israel” and “should not be done.” (Genesis 34.7) Even though they are, in reality, only a large family at this time, they already think of themselves as a distinct people—a nation set apart.

It is a mistake when viewing conflicts such as this one to assume that either Jacob is acting righteously or Levi and Simeon are. In truth, none are righteous. Both aggression and assimilation are a capitulation to culture.

We can’t be “one people” (Genesis 34.16) with everyone but we can live at peace with them. We don’t have to capitulate to culture like Jacob but we mustn’t resort to deception or violence like the brothers. Instead, we can live peacefully according to God’s standards, whether or not the surrounding rulers agree with us. We do not need to conquer the culture, slaying our enemies, but to save our enemies from the culture.

By peaceful loving actions, we can call others to join us as people who are distinct on the face of the earth. We can maintain our holiness and identity, holding up an example, allowing them to be drawn to us and to the gospel. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons

I will bear witness that the Lord is righteous; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High. — Psalm 7.18

Today’s Readings

Genesis 34 (Listen -4:18)
Mark5 (Listen – 5:21)

Read more about Commenting in Community
Many people don’t mind attaching their identities to noxious ideas, lies, exaggerations, hurtful and mean-spirited memes, name-calling, and desperate pandering to the powerful.

Read more about Resisting Culture’s Mold
Leah and Rachel are set against one another…They allow this cultural pressure to press them into a combative mold.

Faith After the Storm

Mark 4.39-40
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Reflection: Faith After the Storm
By John Tillman

How tired Christ must have been to be asleep during the storm. 

Mark gives us the beautiful eyewitness detail that Christ’s head was on a pillow. Jesus had healed and preached all day long. Then he had preached it all again to his disciples who had heard the stories but, just like the crowd, had a hard time understanding.

Jesus was beaten down by the demands of his work so much so that the wildly rocking boat, the crashing waves, and even the boat filling up with water didn’t wake him. In the midst of this terrible storm, Jesus slept on until his shaken disciples shook him awake.

The disciples don’t seem to wake Jesus because he can save them from the storm. They merely wake him to complain about his treatment of them. “Don’t you care that we are going to drown?” The drowning seems a foregone conclusion. There is no direct request, merely bitterness and accusation. 

How many times do we go to Jesus in prayer, without faith but with bucket-fulls of complaints and accusations.

Don’t you care, Jesus?
Why don’t you answer?
What’s wrong with you?

When Jesus calms the storm, the disciples’ fears should be as calm as the sea, but instead they are heightened. The disciples are more terrified than before. 

Jesus asleep on the pillow is a punching bag for our emotions. Asleep, he cannot hear or dispute our complaints, our fears, our version of events. But Jesus standing and rebuking the storm rebukes us as well. “Quiet. Be still.”

Jesus standing and commanding the storm is intimidating and disturbing. He is no longer someone we can shake awake and push around. He is no longer the servile employee behind the desk of God’s complaint department. Instead he holds power that cannot be debated with. He is someone who demands our service, commands our compliance. We may be as terrified by a Jesus who calms storms as we are by the storms themselves.

As we examine our hearts this weekend, spend some time contemplating the fearful question of the disciples, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Though we still have no faith after the storm, he is willing to do great things through our lives. If the winds and waves listen to his rebukes…we can too.

Be stilled and calmed by Christ this weekend.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 33 (Listen – 2:59) 
Mark 4 (Listen – 5:01)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 34 (Listen – 4:18), Mark 5 (Listen – 5:21)
Genesis 35-36 (Listen – 9:33), Mark 6 (Listen – 7:23)

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Read more about Thanksgiving Stirs God’s Heart
When Simon (not yet called Peter) saw what Christ had done for him and his partners, he skipped right over being thankful to being fearful. “Go away from me! I’m not worthy. I don’t understand! You don’t know how sinful I am!”

Read more about Prayer from the Belly of the Beast
We may not be in the beast’s belly because of wrongdoing, but because our world is filled with beasts. But regardless of how we came to be there, our prayer may be sharpened, amplified, and have greater effect on our hearts.