‘Life Workings’ Meditations No.26: Different
Gen 27:11 “my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin.”
So we continue this pilgrimage seeking out and reminding ourselves how this world works, what makes us what we are, and what we could be, and reasons why, sometimes, we fall short. But there is yet another factor in how to live successfully and I hope we’ll see it in the light of this somewhat strange verse above.
We used to joke about this verse being a fun source for a sermon, but it does point out an important fact: we are all different. At birth we are the product of the genes of our parents but that doesn’t stop us being different from brothers or sisters. That sometimes is very clear in outward appearance, sometimes in personal traits, but in respect of the latter it is always only a propensity, an inclination. We do NOT have to follow the same path as our parents, we are NOT locked in by our genes, we can choose. It may need God’s help but we can walk a uniquely individual path. Our parents give us the basic building blocks, but we can choose (with God’s help) how we will respond with them.
Now Esau and Jacob are a good illustration of this. They were twins but clearly not identical twins as the verse shows. There was a similarity which we all have – they showed sinful traits. Jacob was all out for himself and didn’t bother how he achieved that. Esau was a more physically orientated young man who liked outdoor work, liked his food and didn’t care an iota about his background, didn’t care that he came from a family tree that had a big God-connection. Esau was ‘daddy’s boy’ Jacob the favourite of his mother. But there was other critical difference between the two boys – God knew their potential, knew that Esau would continue to despise his birth-right but that, with a little bit of moulding, Jacob could become a great man of God.
Another interesting couple are Mary and Martha and we see their difference in Lk 10:38-42 and also in the way they responded to Jesus at the death of their brother Lazarus (Jn 11:20-). They are just good examples of how sisters can be different, but to catch a warning of how differences can be a source of contention we have to go to the beginning with Cain & Abel (Gen 4). They had different roles ‘on the farm’ and clearly had different outlooks in respect of God. This led to Cain being jealous over Abel and, despite a warning from God, led to him murdering his brother. How little things can lead to big consequences. But differences are thing that are better relished, being thankful to God that we are who we are, like we are – different. But here is a danger zone for parents who can show favouritism. Jacob and his son Joseph is the classic example (Gen 37:3), leading to hostility from his brothers and a whole stream of consequences. Warnings!