When God is In Our Relationships…
Discord between countries and communities invite some of life’s greatest insecurities and challenges. As I have been observing these last weeks the events developing in Ukraine, the discord between nations has caused my heart to be strained and my feelings to be close to the surface, too close for comfort. I have learned through connection to disparate cultures and ways of life that knowing a people, the way that people live and love, makes it so much easier to love and to not seek unrighteous dominion over neighbors or any of God’s children here upon the earth. Simply because one cannot understand why another would think or live in a different way than ourselves is not sufficient reason to make enemies. It is through knowing that all are God’s children that we can find peace one with another as brothers and sisters in a common family. If we can visualize peace and love among nations, is it not so that we should seek that same harmony within our own communities and families?
I was a child of the Cold War. I was born in an age of great fear and misunderstanding when super powers focused more on building bombs to destroy than bridges to unite. In addition from my infancy to seeing nightly coverage of the Vietnam War and race riots in our streets on the news, and feeling it to be common place in our lives, I also experienced recurring dreams of vast warehouses filled with missiles and weapons to destroy amidst the play things that I would enjoy as a little boy. It was frightening and dark, cold was indeed an appropriate way to describe this era of fear and seemingly hopeless prospects for a bright future.
I also recall in the recesses of my mind disharmony in our home, between the two I trusted and loved most. I do not remember the cause of every argument but I know those were times of great stress and I think our family just barely survived those days. I am grateful for the courage of my mother and father to muster the strength to carry-on together through life and provide me some security in a world that did seem wholly insecure.
Some of the securing moments of my life include when my parents decided to journey with us to the House of the Lord and seal our family together for all eternity by covenant across the temple’s altar. Another was when a U.S. president, thought to be a war-monger by some, reached his hand across great divides, called upon the premiere of the Soviet Union to tear down the wall, and found the peace that finally ended that Cold War. Those recurring dreams of missiles and darkness ceased, and true peace came to the mind of a young man hoping for a better tomorrow.
Discord and disharmony amongst family and friends can be as harmful and soul wrecking as the nightmarish wars and weapons build-up of my childhood. Animosity begins with misunderstandings and unrepentant acts against those we love most. Uncleared, a simple misunderstanding can lead to deep resentment and destructive division. In like manner, an unkind, insensitive, or purposeful act that goes unrepentant can sow the seeds of anger and hatred, thus needlessly destroying families and friendship.
Some acts are so severe that they create distrust and make it very difficult for family-life and fellowship to continue in healthy ways. Nevertheless, while no one should ever allow themselves to be victimized through the wrongs of others, often discord in family involves misunderstanding or incorrect actions that can and should be quickly forgiven so that hearts and relationships can be healed.
“I am certain that the pathway of my family to God’s House and His covenants, was enlightened more by willingness to forgive the weakness of others, than demands for apologies and refusals of trust.”
Insensitivity to the feelings of others is wrong and should be reconciled by the offender, but should not necessarily be held so closely by those offended that forgiveness and trust are never restored. True harmony is achieved in families, communities and between nations, when open hands of forgiveness are offered, and when warranted trust is extended. I am certain that the pathway of my family to God’s House and His covenants, was enlightened more by willingness to forgive the weakness of others, than demands for apologies and refusals of trust.
In a time when it seems that people would rather raise swords than extend olive branches I am given hope by the acts of two brothers, twin brothers, the sons of Isaac and Rebekah so long ago. Any reading of the Old Testament could judge that there was warranted cause for Esau and Jacob to be angry, distrusting and fearful of one another. In the study of such an ancient text we must exercise due care in determining who may have been at greater fault for the discord of these brothers, but it would seem from what we read that Esau had good cause to be angry, and that Jacob had equal reason to fear. I am impressed by the actions of both in the resolution of their disagreement.
Jacob knew that it was time for him to face his brother and return home, but he was justifiably fearful that he would suffer the wrath of a brother who had felt greatly wronged. Jacob sought the Lord for divine assistance with his brother, and the Lord did provide. “Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men…, and [Jacob] bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (Genesis 33:1, 3-4).
I do not know or understand the full experience of Esau and Jacob, what touched Esau’s heart to forgive his brother and welcome his coming. Perhaps Esau was following the example of their father Isaac and Ishmael their uncle, when they came together, as brothers who had experienced much discord through life, to peaceably bury their father Abraham? I do not know, but I do know this, when Jacob sought to place the Lord in the relationship between he and his brother Esau, the Lord did provide. When God is in our relationships, when He is sought to preserve peace and trust, the two are more freely given and received.
“Trust, but verify.”
President Ronald Reagan
President Ronald Reagan used to say, “trust, but verify,” and it was that willingness to seek with care the understanding and friendship of an enemy, rather than demand apologies for past wrongs, that blessed the world with many restful sleeps over the last three decades. The peace and prosperity brought to the world by those actions now so many years behind us, was worth the humbling measures of powerful men to provide better lives to their people. For the trusting acts of President Reagan and Mikael Gorbachev, I am truly grateful, as I am for my father and my mother. I know that the hand of God was in it, not by force nor compulsion, but by invitation of those who would seek the peace and harmony that only comes through His divine assistance.
“Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him” (Genesis 35:29).
May there be peace where now there is war. May the love of God, and His children, prevail over our desires for justice or recompense. Many of the descendants of Esau and Jacob, Isaac and Ishmael, the sons of Abraham, do battle against one-another even today, may they follow the examples of their fathers and come together with an embrace and a kiss. When God is in our relationships He can heal our differences, our wounded hearts, allay our fears and bring harmony to all. Let us all humbly rely on His healing and wisdom, and exercise true brotherly love, that we might have peace, harmony and unity now, and eternal joy together in the world come. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.