The Sacred Narrative is full of rivalry.
Cain and Abel.
Ishmael and Isaac.
Hagar and Sarah.
Jacob and Esau.
Joseph and his brothers.
Even the disciples wandered into this desert land, arguing over who was most favored and would get to sit at the right hand of Jesus.
It is all there!
The reasons for the rivalry were real.
Life wasn’t fair.
God did appear to favor Able.
Ishamel (and Hagar) got a raw deal.
Jacob was a jerk.
And Joseph too.
In some cases, reconciliation never happened.
It might be said that Ishmael and Isaac are still estranged.
Hagar was driven into the desert, never to return.
But sometimes it did.
Jacob and Esau found their way back to brotherhood.
So did Joseph and his brothers.
How did that happen?
In at least the case if Jacob and Esau,
and perhaps Joseph and his brothers too,
the key to reconciliation was a refusal to remain resentful.
Esau could have been resentful.
He could have remained angry and alienated.
But we are told that when Jacob finally worked his way back home,
Esau simply welcomed him with open arms.
Jacob, who was a trickster, and probably all wrapped up in
Quid pro Quo,
was shocked. And moved.
“Truly” he told Esau, “to see your face is like seeing the face of God, since you have received me with such grace.”
Joseph, who recovered nicely from being sold into slavery, is in a unique position to get back at his brothers. He is now powerful and rich. The moment is rife with possibilities as his brothers, starving and in trouble show up in Egypt.
Admittedly he “plays” with them.
But in the end he feeds them, and then welcomes them.
The brothers are reunited.
We can forgive, I expect Joseph for his humanity.
What is important is that there are two paths revealed.
The path of resentment, and the path of reconciliation.
Some of the stories in the Bible have a tragic edge.
Able is killed.
Hagar and Ishmael driven into the desert.
Resentment can be ugly!
It can cause us to do ugly things.
When resentment is laid aside good things happen.
In the accepting face of rejected and despised Esau, God’s face shone.
In the actions of Joseph, the excluded brother, help was given.
The cycle of bitterness was broken,
And reconciliation occurred.
We live in a world of bitterness.
We live in a time when resentment is killing us.
There is something to be learned from these Sacred stories.
Perhaps resentment and retribution are not the way to go.
Yes, it is easy to see that “they” are angry and resentful.
But in what ways am I angry and resentful?
What does it mean to let go of that resentment?
What does it mean to seek reconciliation rather than retribution?
To what degree is accountability OK?
(it is important to note that Jacob knew he was wrong, and the “brothers” had come up against hard times, and were chastened)
This is not easy!
This is profoundly complex!
But I know, in my heart, that if I hang on to my resentment,
if I seek retribution not reconciliation (however that happens),
it will get ugly.
The world will get ugly.
My life will get ugly.
I want to be God’s image bearer.
I want God to show up in the world through me.
And I know that I am not that bearer, when my face (and heart)
are filled with resentment.
From our resentment, Oh Lord deliver us.
Make us agents of reconciliation!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5).