I first want to apologize for the length of this, but it was all so important I could not determine what to leave out. . .
There has been something on my mind lately that I just can’t seem to shake and maybe someone has had or is having the same experience in your life. I was reading one of my favorite devotional books and the author wrote these words:
“What good is it if someone gains the whole world but loses their soul? In our mad dash, non-stop way of life, we too often forget about or blatantly ignore what matters most for our lives. But deep down, the simple truth that nothing, no achievements, no pleasures, no possessions equals the value of the human soul resonates in our inner being. Because what we most want for ourselves is to live our lives with significance and meaning. We long to be all that God created us to be.”
In the attempt to being all that God is creating us to be and obtaining what we want most for ourselves, a life with significance and meaning. How do you do that when one of the things you value is a relationship with your sibling or siblings? When that relationship does not look or feel as you would desire it to be. What does a person do? I know that some of the answer will be. . .to pray, to wait on God, turn it over, some may even say shake the dust off your feet and move on. . . But what does God's Word have to say about this?
In Genesis 27:41; 32:3-5, 9-11; 33:1-5, 10-11
Among the best known stories of scripture are accounts of infamous sibling rivalries. Beginning with Cain and Able, the Bible records numerous family squabbles between brothers and brothers and even between brothers and sisters. The Bible makes no attempt to cover up the dysfunctional nature of some biblical families. But just as the Bible gives account of dysfunctional families so also does it give guidelines for healthy sibling relationships. This study is intended to improve a relationship that can be a blessing for a lifetime.
It is the story of two sibling rivals, Jacob and Esau. Here were two boys whose behavior could have set in motion a lifetime of bad blood. Instead, because of God’s intervention, the two antagonists became late life friends. This is a story of a relationship restored. From the outset these brothers were pitted against each other in jealous competition for their parents’ attention. Born twins, they grew up side by side but not step in step. Each had his own personality and agenda. Their early years together reveal the weakness and faults of each. Jacob was manipulative, and Esau was insensitive. Jacob was the youngest, but God had revealed that he would be greater than his brother who was born moments before. One was a momma’s boy; the other was the father’s favorite. You know the story. . .
Here were two young men who could have been more than brothers; they could have been friends. Tragically they became more than rivals; they became enemies. This is a story repeated often in scripture. Many siblings are robbed of a relationship that could enrich them for a lifetime all because of petty jealousy and the unwillingness to forgive. In many situations the people involved have long forgotten the original argument. All they know is that there is tension between them and it is awkward for all involved.
In Colossians 3:12-14, the apostle Paul admonishes Christians to demonstrate grace toward one another. What is needed between spiritual brothers is no less needed between biological siblings. Paul advocates proactive grace. Simply defined, it is grace that takes the initiative to forgive and to restore any broken or estranged relationship. Too often Christians practice what could be called “grace by osmosis.” They do nothing, hoping over time the relationship will just heal itself. The biblical pattern is much different.
How should proactive grace be carried out?
- Acknowledge the problems that exist in the relationship. Examine the health of your family ties. Ask the hard questions of yourself. Have I done my part to keep my relationship strong? Is there some fault of mine or some neglect on my part? Look honestly at your relationship and ask if it is really what you want it to be. Don’t look at the fault of your sibling; consider what part you have played or should have played.
- Pray about the relationship. Ask God to restore and renew your relationship and to work in your sibling’s heart as well as your own. Begin by asking for the grace necessary to see the situation as it really is, not as you have perceived it to be. Ask God to allow you to see your sibling’s side of things. And pray for God’s love to flow through you.
- Take steps to reconcile. Jesus tells us in the gospels if we go to the altar and there determine that someone has something against us, we are to leave our gift and go to them. In others words, we are to be proactive with our grace. What can you do to strengthen your relationship with your sibling? Good relationships don’t happen just because you hope they will.
In our focal passage Jacob feared his encounter with Esau after many years only to find that his brother wanted to reestablish and renew the relationship as much, if not more, than he did. Could it be that there is a relationship waiting to be restored in your life? Is there a brother or sister who misses you? What would it take to restore that relationship, and more importantly, what are you willing to do?