One of the incredible rivalries between siblings that the Bible recounts is the one between Jacob and Esau:
Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.
Esau was the first to be born, and according to scripture, Jacob was holding Esau’s leg when Esau was born. The height of that rivalry was when Jacob with the help of his mother stole Esau’s blessing from him and then took off. Later, when Jacob was returning back to his country, he sought and made peace with Esau.
The rivalry did not end after Jacob and Esau smoked the peace pipe; it has continued on to this very day. Scripture is replete with stories upon stories about this rivalry, and in the recent past, we have seen the rivalry played out on our TV screens and many other avenues of communication.
The most recent flashes occurred a few weeks ago between the Israelis, who are thought to be descendants of Jacob, and the Palestinians, who are also thought to be descendants of Esau. The Israelis used the powerful military strength to cause as much damage and death as possible. The Palestinians also used their less superior weapons to cause as much damage and death on the Israeli people as possible.
Mine is not to debate the merits of their long-running dispute. I think the issues run very, very deep and have been passed on from one generation to another. Many are the world leaders who have spent significant political capital on this very concern. What saddens me, however, is that after all the efforts that have already gone into solving this conflict, the world has still not been able to provide a concrete resolution to this intractable problem. Without a lasting solution, we will have to wake up in the morning to more news flashes of conflict between the descendants of twins.
I had a chat with a friend the other day, and she reminded me of the many ongoing conflicts around the world. It does not appear that the pandemic has slowed down people’s appetite for conflict. As terrible as the pandemic has been, I was hoping that its effect on all of us will help us to be more measured in our interaction with each other and be filled with compassion for the other.
We may all have been twins thousands of years ago, but we have grown so distant and different that we no longer recognize each other as such, nor do we honor our common heritage. We have, in all honesty, lost trust in each other. It often feels like our desire is to get at the other. We have lost trust in the honesty and truth which our public institutions must represent. We continue to fail the institution for which our ancestors fought and died.
This past Memorial Day was an incredibly somber day for me. I have reflected a lot about the sacrifices that many millions of people have made to make this country safe, secure, prosperous, and strong. I thought a lot about their dedication to duty, honor, honesty, and patriotism. Amid my wonderings, the events of this past January 6th came to mind. I could not just bring myself to understand the refusal to have a bipartisan investigation into the events of that day. I thought that would be a given - that as a constitutional republic, properly investigating an event of such national importance would have been the desire of everyone. But that was not to be.
There is no doubt that we have a long way to go; whether you live in Israel or Gaza, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Myanmar, or even our own United States, we have a long way to go in making sure that we find greater meaning and purpose in our common heritage. We also have a long way to go in building relationships that overlook our differences and creates an avenue for smoking the proverbial peace pipe.
We have a long way to go in being twins with different and enriching motivations than Jacob and Esau.