Insight for the Day

He’s My Brother

April 30, 2024 Robert Wolgemuth—Editor

But Esau ran to meet him, hugged him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. Then they wept. (Genesis 33:4)

Ray Dourte has always been my favorite cousin. Our birth dates are only a few months apart, and when we were small, our parents gave us the chance to spend time together. He played the ukulele, told funny stories, and, for several years, lived in California. Ray was cool.

As a kid, I can remember how my parents used to beg me to write letters to grown-ups who had done particularly nice things for me—grandparents, mostly. (Yes, people used to send handwritten letters on paper.) But no one needed to prompt me to write to Ray. I wrote lots of letters to this favorite cousin. I wanted to write to him because I wanted him to think I was cool, too.

On one occasion—I was probably ten—something happened to my letter between the writing and the sealing of the envelope. I must have left it out, faceup, in my room. Unfortunately, my mother, who would never have done such a thing unless God had specifically directed her to do so, picked it up and read my letter to Ray.

Most of the letter was clearly inconsequential, ten-year-old drivel. But one sentence caught my mother’s discerning eye. It was a thoughtless and unkind comment I had made about my older brother, Ken—something I’d written to impress Ray.

The moment I walked into our house from school that afternoon, I could tell I was in trouble. My mother asked if we could talk about something sad that had happened that day. We sat down on two kitchen chairs, facing each other, and I’ll never forget what she said to me.

“I read your letter to Ray,” she began. “And I read what you said about your brother.”

My heart stopped. I knew I had written a cruel thing, and I knew I had done it only to show off. “Robert,” she continued, “Ken is your brother.”

She stopped talking, but the look on her face finished the thought completely. In fact, she never said another thing about my letter. She didn’t even ask me to rewrite it—which I did, of course. All she said was, “Ken is your brother.” I got the message. It’s been more than sixty years since that little talk, and I haven’t forgotten the message.

Jacob and Esau were brothers. In a word, Jacob was a scoundrel. As a young man he had lied, deceived, and stolen from his brother. And now they were grown men and about to see each other face-to-face. Jacob was scared for his life. In reading the chapters that precede today’s verses, you can tell that Jacob had been thinking for a long time about what he had done to Esau. And even though years had passed, this broken relationship with his brother was about to drive him crazy. Given this backlog of conflict, shame, and regret, isn’t verse 4 incredible? “But Esau ran to meet him, hugged him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. Then they wept.”

Can you see these grown men, filled with a full dose of grace, crying like brokenhearted children, regretting the years of alienation?

There are two messages for you and me today. First, as a man and a dad, one of our family’s core values must be the lesson I learned that day from my mother: teach your children how to treat each other. The second message is for you and me: How is it with our brother? Maybe it’s time for that meeting.