“And the Lord said to [Rebekah], ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.'” Genesis 25:23 NRSV)
Jacob and Esau even fought in the womb. Their poor mother had to deal with their wrestling and fighting to the point that she wanted to die. While it’s really uncommon for twins to have survived in that day and age, the point of this passage is more than just that the two brothers fought and there was sibling rivalry. The point is that two nations were spawned from these twins, and even the nations fought – an etiological explanation.
However, there is something to think about in the sibling rivalry going on in the story of Jacob and Esau. We can learn about our own relationships as well as church relationships. Relationships are difficult, even with biological families, because they come out of different experiences and desires. Most of the sibling rivalry stems from someone’s need to be more important than the other. There is a genuine fear that “Mom will love you best.” (Esau could definitely have claimed that, and it would have been true! But then, Jacob could also say truthfully that Esau was Dad’s favorite.)
When families have dissention and do hurtful things to each other, somewhere along the line, healing and reconciliation could take place. The question would be, “Who makes the first move?’ Maybe the second question is, “Will the other person accept the attempts at forgiveness and reconciliation?” It’s hard to tell, and it depends on how deeply imbedded are the resentments and anger toward the other person. Hopefully, at some point, folks remember that Jesus taught us to forgive and reconcile. Wouldn’t it be good to become good listeners and find ways to “walk in the other person’s shoes” for a while so we can be more empathic?
It might be a good practice to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes to try to understand where they are coming from and how things in their lives are affecting them. A little more compassion and kindness, listening and being a friend, or even just tolerance and shrugging off some things might be helpful in getting rid of sibling rivalry wherever and in whatever form we encounter it.