Rivalry is on steroids today (Feb. 13) as it is Superbowl weekend and passionate supporters of the competing teams are against each other. The Winter Olympics are happening in China, and the contenders for medals are viewed as archenemies. In the Superbowl and the Winter Olympics, friendly competition has been frequently abandoned for a need to win against one’s opponent. At any time, sports, school, business, political and religious rivals can become more than fellow competitors. They may be seen as adversaries, enemies and foes.
Few families can claim to be without any rivalries among their members. Unfortunately, families have a spotty record of living in seamless harmony. Our jealousy and resentment may become hatred towards members of our own family. In Genesis 4, brothers Cain and Abel brought offerings to God. The Lord was favourable to Abel’s offering but not Cain’s offering. This rejection made Cain angry, and the Lord cautioned Cain to master his anger and resentment. Instead, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Sibling rivalry also played a significant part in the lives of Jacob and Esau, and the elder brother of the prodigal son would not welcome him home. The most famous case of sibling rivalry was when the brothers of Joseph sold him into slavery. The story of Joseph is more than a happy ending to sibling abuse, but the victory of Joseph's forgiveness towards his brothers. When Joseph was reunited with his brothers years later, he was a person of power and influence. He could have taken vengeance on his brothers, but he forgave them freely and fully for their abuse of him. (Genesis 45:3-15)
It may be hard to find harmony at home, at work, church, neighbourhood or in our province, country or the world. Do we try to get along with others or set our minds against them? When people don't get along with each other, it doesn't take much to spoil their compatibility.
It is a sad truth that people are better at being against others than for them. We are good at finding fault with others but not finding flaws with ourselves. Jesus asks, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3) Jesus also said, “Do not judge. Do not condemn.” (Luke 6: 37) Let us remember this when we see others as enemies and foes.
Jesus questioned, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn to him the other one.” (Luke 6: 32-33, 27-29)
Knowing we are imperfect, yet God loves us and forgives us through our faith in Christ is the foundation for getting along with others. We mess up, as do others. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)