I love the stories of Genesis because they really get to the bottom of human relationship and human life. They are not preached on often and many people struggle to figure out how to find the lessons in these stories for today’s modern life. But the lessons are there. These stories are examples for us. Today’s Genesis reading seems like a classic sibling rivalry story. If you have siblings you have these types of stories. Myself included. My brother closest in age to me, Jason, and I had a lot of sibling rivalry when we were growing up. In many ways, we were very much a like which is why I think we fought so much. We fought over everything. From the “Mom!!!! He’s touching me!” to the arguments over who can prove they are smarter than the other.
Jason was always talented at the math and sciences. I was definitely better at history and writing than he was. We both had our different talents and different passions in life. But as children we couldn’t see that. We both couldn’t be special. This also extended into trying to get one another in trouble. Some of my earliest memories with my brother are from these interactions. I remember one time in particular, Jason said to me “Manda bite me. I beat you couldn’t leave teeth marks. I won’t tell mom. I promise. Bite me, bite me.” So being a little kid, I took that challenge. I could do anything my brother said I couldn’t. I needed to prove myself.
So, I bit him and I bit him hard. He then ran to my mother and told on me. I ended up sitting in the corner and getting in trouble. Children’s relationships change very little when we grow up if we don’t work on those relationships. Hopefully, we are no longer biting one another. But we find other ways to compete with one another and to make each other feel less than us and to make ourselves feel special and better than everyone else. This is the case with Isaacs twins: Esau and Jacob.
They show us what can happen when we don’t work on our relationships. The actions that each child took as children followed them into adulthood. Such factions and lack of respect shown between two individuals can lead to battles, hardships, and lost time. Esau and Jacob remain separated and out of relationship with one another for many years precisely because of the actions they took as children. And it is the same with society. What needs to be learned here is that both Jacob and Esau had skills, passions, abilities, and leadership skills that set them up for success in life even though they were very different. But both children were not set up to respect one another. They were not set up for a life of confidence in their own abilities. They were not set up to work together to broaden their understanding of the world around them.
This was not God’s doing but rather the doing of society and their familial dynamics. God helped both men to establish great nations and gave both men the skills needed to lead and he blessed them both. But ultimately, they and we have an important role in determining what our relationships look like both familial and in society and the greater world. This requires that we participate in self-examination and it helps if we can see ourselves in the characters of Jacob and Esau. This is the point of this story. We can learn from the mistakes of the past to establish stronger relationships that build each other up to create the type of world that reflects the love and unity of God instead of the hate, hurt, and divisiveness of humanity.
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers”. Humanity has figured out how to do great and wonderful things as individuals and as local groups. But if we could figure out how to respect, love, and care for one another then we do even greater things. This is the challenge set forth by the story of sibling rivalry in the Jacob and Esau account. We are challenged to rise above familial disputes, societal disputes, and world disputes to see and respect the unique beauty of what God has created in all humanity. To do this we need to look inward. We need to look at our own judgments, our own struggles with forgiveness, and our own biases.
We need to remember when we are interacting with others that everyone is special, everyone is unique, everyone has talents and needs, and together in our diversity we can change the world. So enter into the important work of seeing and respecting the humanity of all people, especially those we don’t understand and look for the way that God is calling you to love them. Remember the words of the Psalmist from this morning, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path”. Allow the words of our scriptures and the challenge of God to light your life’s journey and see the wonders he will reveal to you along the way. Work to heal the broken relationships in your lives and in the world by broadening your view of the world to see and respect the humanity, with their talents and flaws, in all people. We don’t have to let rivalry reign supreme in our world. It is up to us to make the love of God the focus of the human experience.
 Martin Luther King, Jr. 20th century.
 Psalm 119: 105, NIV.
(based on Psalm 119:105-112 and Genesis 25:19-34)