Friday, March 25, 2016

Have you but one blessing

Esau’s desperate plea echoes on through the ages, an unresolved chord.

So does the divine verdict with its matter-of-fact shrug: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

It’s enough that life isn’t fair, enough that when Esau is hungry, vulnerable and consumed with work, those he trusts betray him. But it gets worse in the second act, of course. And centuries later, when people try to ask questions, an impatient apostle won’t hesitate to make Esau exhibit A of that’s-just-how-it-is.

People will keep asking questions and keep pleading Esau’s plea. The haunting verdict will stick around as well, and even the characteristically empathetic Jesus will repeat its chilly message now and then. When students ask about his cryptic approach with crowds clearly hungry for hope and help, the teacher will reply, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

To his credit, Esau himself eventually moves beyond his very justifiable outrage. Not only does he move on, though -- he becomes a model of reconciliation and being the bigger person.

Years later he will run toward his despicable brother, wrapping the twerp in an affectionate, all-is-forgiven, hairy-armed hug. And Jacob will be showered with unexpected grace.

There was and is still in this story only the one blessing, still the infinite injustice and betrayal, all of it unacceptably consecrated by a higher power. Esau rightly voices his rage at a rigged, wildly screwed-up game. In the end, though, while the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob may hate him, love wins the day. And Esau decides to bestow it.