Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, famished. Esau demanded, “Let me eat some of that!” Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau moaned, “I am about to die! Of what use is a birthright if I starve to death?” Jacob said, “Swear to me.” So Esau swore it and sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. (Genesis 25:29-33, adapted) 

Neither twin comes out looking like a hero in this scene. Esau: throwing away his birthright in a moment of desperation. Jacob: taking advantage of his brother’s weakness to make a power-play. Is either of Isaac’s twin sons really a proper fit to inherit the birthright? 

The way the Bible story goes, it’s a foregone conclusion that Jacob is the proper heir to the birthright. Scripture teases Esau, calling him the son with red hair who ate the red stew and went away red with anger. Meanwhile, Jacob gets the family name, the family faith … and the favor of readers like us who take Jacob’s side over Esau’s because, after all, the Bible says it’s Esau’s fault for “despising his birthright” in the first place. 

I don’t know. Blaming someone for the start of a conflict rarely hastens its resolution. Blame points a finger of responsibility without extending a hand for accountability. Blame lends itself to entrenchment, to the drawing of lines that dictate a binary option: “Pick a side.”  

When sides are chosen, the only outcomes are triumph or loss—not resolution, not justice, not forgiveness. 

Maybe Esau started the conflict. Maybe Jacob started it when he grabbed Esau’s heel during their birth. Maybe who started it has nothing to do with the important part: ending it. 

And love ends it.

After decades of bitter distance, Esau runs to cross the gap between them, embraces Jacob, and asks his little brother how the family’s doing. 

Prayer: How quick I am to point my finger, Merciful God! How easily I build a defensive wall of blame and injury! Let love run right through that wall with the embrace of grace. 

cross-posted with the Daily Devotional

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