Sometimes bad blood within the same blood can become good blood. We’ve all heard the phrase, “blood is thicker than water.” That expression is often used to imply that family ties (blood) are always more important (thicker) than the ties you make among friends (water). However, we all know that the members of one’s bloodline are fully capable of making relationships dysfunctional and even toxic. Interaction becomes strained. And people who share a common family history become alienated from one another. And they feel the need to set up protective boundaries.
Today’s taste of Torah features bad familial blood turning good. It demonstrates that whatever the history is between two individuals, reconciliation that terminates hostility, is both desirable and attainable.
Our portion of today’s portion is Genesis 33:1-4. And the incident depicted here is Jacob and Esau agreeing to bury the hatchet that has driven a deadly wedge between them. It reads: Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming toward him with 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two female slaves. 2 He put the female slaves and their children first, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed to the ground seven times until he approached his brother. 4 But Esau ran to meet him, hugged him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. Then they wept.
It was time for Jacob to confront his past. More than twenty years had come and gone since he pretended to be his brother Esau in order to secure the first-born blessing from their father. The last time Jacob had seen Esau, Esau was filled with murderous rage, vowing to kill Jacob (cf. Gen. 27:41). So it’s easy to see why Jacob felt anxiety at the prospect of seeing his brother again, especially upon learning that Esau was headed his way with 400 men!
Now Jacob, being the man of strategy that he was, divided his family and the people with him, along with his flock, herds and camels, into two camps. That way, if Esau attacked one camp, the other would survive (Gen. 32:8). Well, it turned out that none of this was necessary. Esau warmly embraced his brother. For Esau, with the passage of time, the pain of betrayal was replaced by a willingness to forgive. And Jacob wasn’t the same person either. As the story unfolds we see that Jacob approached Esau with generosity and humility (Gen. 33:10-11). And in response to that Esau received Jacob in a spirit of graciousness.
Perhaps before you became a Messiah follower some regrettable events transpired between you and someone you’re physically related to. And as a result there’s some bad blood in your bloodline. But now, because of your identification with Yeshua, you’re not the same person you were before. You look at things differently. And you sincerely want to talk to your unbelieving relatives about the gospel. Here’s a principle we can take away from today’s Parsha that will help us do that: Do not be intimidated by the past!
Yes, it’s true that no one knows you like your relatives. They have seen and know your selfishness, your fits of anger, your unkind attitudes, and a boatload of other sins as well. And all of that can make witnessing to people who know you very well very intimidating. So what do you do? You view yourself as God views you – forgiven! If you have wronged your relative, be quick to confess and demonstrate how knowing Jesus as Messiah makes a difference in your life. Compliment them for what they have meant to you. Express your concern for them. And talk about the good news that Messiah has come and Messiah has provided atonement.
Here’s the deal: The same God that brought you to Jesus can save your most hardened relative. There’s never been a person His heart did not love. And there’s never been a person His arm could not reach. And that’s why the Lord we worship, and the Lord we serve, can turn bad blood into good blood.