‘Sharing the same space’
The tale is told of two brothers, born as twins, but different as they could be. Even in the womb, their mother could feel the mischief between them. They wrestled with each other prior to birth. During delivery one was in the process of coming out first and his brother pulled him back in and took his place. Their life was defined by contest of who would get their way. It got to the point that one brother had to flee to a far-country, lest their anger turn to blood-shed. It would be years before they were reunited.
In contrast to their experience is an ancient poem of faith that one of their descendants, King David, would later write. He observes, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like precious oil on the head, running down on the beard (fragrant, soothing, healing)” (Psalm 133:1-2). Even generations later, another descendant, the Apostle Paul, would write instruction on how to live in such a relationship with others: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another…” (Romans 12:10).
The two brothers I first mentioned were named Jacob and Esau, and it took a long time before they came back together. As they did, the story tells of how Jacob approached Esau, demonstrating signs of great honor and respect; Esau responded in kind. It lived out another timeless truth: do unto others as you want them to do unto you. Some theologians connect the dots further and translate it “as you want God to do unto you.”
Learning from this, I must ask myself: If I want to be treated the way I am treating others, what will others do to me? What would God do to me?
As the United States faces Inauguration Day — Friday — I humbly pray for God to heal this land. We are deeply estranged from each other. I am keenly aware of divisions, pain and distrust present in our culture. I am disturbed by the tone that we have taken in our treatment of each other. Is this how we want to be treated (by others, or by God)? We have our differences, but let my next moves toward others strive to outdo them in showing honor, even to the one who has wounded me the most. For this is The Way to heal.
Rev. Michael Kendall is lead pastor of Farmville United Methodist Church. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.