I Will Kill My BrotherFr. Barnabas Powell
We were discussing a politician we both knew. But, here’s the rub; this politician held many of the same values and positions we both felt strongly about. However, this politician had been caught in a public and inescapable lie, and not just any lie, like “I really did finish my homework” but a lie that revealed a real character flaw in this politician we so very much agreed with on so many things! As we struggled with this disappointment something my mother taught me came to mind “Son, always put your best foot forward.” She meant for me to always show the best of who I am and what I am to everyone. Good advice, especially if you’re a leader!
Look at our lesson today in Genesis 27:1-41. We won’t quote the whole passage, but the portion that deals with the lying Jacob and the furious Esau:
As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also prepared savory food, and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, “Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.” His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am your son, your first-born, Esau.” Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? – Yes, and he shall be blessed.” When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” But he said, “Your brother came with guile, and he has taken away your blessing.” Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright; and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” Isaac answered Esau, “Behold, I have made him your lord, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. Then Isaac his father answered him: “Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you break loose you shall break his yoke from your neck.” Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
This scene from the First Testament sets the stage for Jacob’s life. He will struggle with the Truth and pay the price for his dishonesty!
Let’s face it, you and I will live lives that will have moments of real pain, real disappointment, and real challenge. We will be lied about, and, if we’re honest, there will be times we are less than totally honest ourselves. We will face the consequences of these challenging times. And how we face these moments in our lives reveals both our strengths and our spiritual needs. The wise person of faith will pay close attention to the insights of these moments and won’t be captured by the temporary pain that threatens to intoxicate us to revenge or dishonesty.
We will embrace the lifestyle of repentance that calls us to a sober honesty about our own sins AND a calling to ignore the sins of my brother. That sobriety sets me free from the toxic shame that keeps me distant from God and others AND the useless “scorekeeping” of constantly comparing myself to others. That is the freedom of the follower of Jesus.
Today, let’s realize that all of us have brokenness in our lives, and the very purpose of all this spiritual labor is to apply the spiritual medicine of our Orthodox faith to those broken places and watch as God’s grace heals us and makes us like Himself. Nothing less and nothing else will ever make us Orthodox on purpose!