Genesis 33:1–9; Numbers 20:14–21; Psalm 137; Lamentations 5:1–22
How much of your extended family do you know? Second cousins, third cousins, and so on. Imagine knowing the descendants of your ancestors (approximately 20 generations gap).
The brothers Jacob and Esau seemed to have been reconciled (though it was a strange one). They certainly didn’t go after each other after this. Yet, something carried over.
The Israelites came out of Egypt after around 500 years after this reconciliation. So, what happens after that? Esau’s descendants want nothing to do with Jacob’s descendants. In fact, they seem to want to make life difficult for their relatives.
As the history of the Israelites continues, the animosity also continues. The Edomites were joyful and mocking at the demise and exile of the Jews. The fall of Jerusalem was a celebration.
It apparently made such an impression that we read in Lamentations about the mocking. The descendants of Esau will soon switch places with the Jews as the disgraced ones.
It can be amazing what a family can do to each other. A place that is supposed to be built on love that destroys spirits and hearts. It seems that on the surface Esau and Jacob were reconciled, but that the discord was passed down to future generations.
When we look at the world around us, we ought to be asking, what kind of relations are we passing down? In the US, we often look at tribal conflicts that are generations old. We even mock (mostly) the historic rivalry between the Hatfields and the McCoy.
We don’t define ourselves that way and certainly not violently. Is that changing? Black- and Blue-Lives Matters, Antifa, Neo-Nazis are all creating their own brand of chaos, and there are a number of others. In fact, at this point, there are so many that it’s almost impossible to keep track of except by the experts.
It wasn’t that long ago that most people would snicker at someone’s assertion that the US was headed toward a new violent internal conflict. Yet, now both people on the left and the right are openly brandishing weapons (as provocation), and the more peaceful pundits of the left and right are starting to show concern.
And, while this is starting to sound like something on constant repeat, the church is experiencing this as well. Fellowship is being broken. The body of Christ is being broken.
The first call of the church is to heal itself, and there is a lot of work there. It is family after all. Once the church begins the real healing journey, then—and only then—will the church be able to help heal the world.
Father God, Father of our church family, guide us to be your loving family. Amen.
1) Have you ever experienced a family grudge that strained family occasions? Was it a significant issue, or was it something small that was made big?
2) Why do you think family squabbles are often the worst and longest lasting?