“Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Genesis 25:28)
I am a product of a blended family. In other words, as a child I lived under the same roof with a parent and a stepparent, both of whom were rearing children of their own.
Now, I am the head of a blended family. I didn’t enjoy being a member of a blended family as a child and I find it less enjoyable as an adult. Harmony in any family is difficult to maintain, but in a blended family, it sometimes seems hopeless.
When I married my wife in 1992, I told her that she shouldn’t expect me to love her children as much as I loved my own. I even let her know that I didn’t expect her to show the same measure of love for my children that she showed for her children. “That’s something that may come over time,” I told her, “but you just can’t expect it to happen overnight”.
The older I get the more I realize that I am a bigger part of the problem than I may care to admit when it comes to relationships within my family. Indeed, it’s one of the areas in my life that continues to be in need of more work.
Some of you may agree with my philosophy about blended family relationships. In fact, you may even apply that standard in situations where an adopted child lives with you and your biological children. Or maybe you think it’s okay to play favorites among your own children. If you can see yourself in any of these scenarios, you’re making a serious mistake. It’s not the model of character that God wants your children or anyone else to see in you.
The plain truth is God does not expect parents to play favorites when it comes to their children. In fact, it was so important to him that he dealt with it in the first book of His Word. Genesis records that Jacob and Esau, twin brothers, were victimized by parents who were less than even-handed in their relationships with their children.
Esau was the older brother, even though it was by minutes, so Jewish law conferred the rights of the firstborn upon Esau. That means when Isaac died, Esau would get a double portion of his estate and become head of the family.
Because Rebekah loved Jacob more than she loved Esau, she conspired with Jacob to fool Isaac into granting Esau’s birthright to Jacob. Even Jacob had problems with the scheme, which prompted his mother to say, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say". (Genesis 27:13)
The Bible records that their trick worked and Jacob - with the help of his own mother - stole his brother’s birthright.
Favoritism like Isaac and Rebekah displayed in their family set the stage for a lot of heartache and bitterness. Esau and Jacob ultimately reconciled their differences, but the Bible also points out that Esau carried unforgiveness around with him for years.
Parents who show partiality to one child are often blind to the good in the other child. But the real danger is that when parents treat children unfairly, it may not only drive the unfairly treated child away from home, but from God, too.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to face Jesus and have to explain why I can’t try to love my stepchild as much as I do my own child. That’s wrong and I’ve asked God to forgive me for making such stupid statements and for acting them out so shamelessly in my own life.
God is still teaching me how to love. It’s a hard lesson, but I’m learning from the Master. After all, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him”. (1 John 4:16)