From Injury to Forgiveness

Yesterday we read the incredible story of Jacob and Esau. In the story, Jacob the trickster robbed Esau out of his birth rite. He lied and with shrewd calculation convinced his father to bless him. It wasn’t right. Esau was the firstborn child and being the oldest deserved respect.

I can’t imagine the anger that Esau felt. The betrayal of his friend, his brother, must have put him over the edge. His fury must have consumed him as he struggled to find his way in the world. Why would the person closest to him hurt him so deeply? Was he mad or angry? Perhaps he felt a little of both emotions.

Jacob didn’t help resolve the issue. There is never an accounting in Scripture where he attempted to figure out a way to make it right with Esau. His greed got him what he wanted, and now it appears that his actions placed in a prison of fear. The only way that he could find freedom would be to talk with Esau and attempt to find common ground.

We know what it is like to be either brother in this story. Sometimes we get selfish and in so doing, hurt the ones we love. We also know what it is like to be betrayed. Someone closest to us speaks an unkind word or does something that is devastating. We, like Esau, feel anger, hurt, and struggle to make sense of how our loved one(s) could hurt us so profoundly.

The end of the story is the most remarkable part. Jacob knew that he had to face Esau. Jacob feels complete fear that he will die. Esau, in Jacob’s mind, is still furious and wants to set the record straight. So, the trickster divides his families and prepares for the dreaded confrontation.

When the brothers meet, there is no battle, there is not an unkind word. Esau’s motivation is to see his brother and embrace him as his family. He missed him. The man that had every right to be angry forgave his brother. The relationship proved far too important than the feelings of betrayal.

And now we get to the meat of the story, the act of forgiveness. I am not sure that I could forgive someone who stole so much, nor would I want a relationship with those that were so cruel. Perhaps Esau may help give a little perspective on how to rise up and let go of the past. Maybe his ability was so precious that the anger could not overcome the love for his brother. His choice overcame a culture that insisted on an eye for an eye. He dismissed what he knew to embrace love.

As someone who knows what it is like to have complicated relationships, this is where I push the pause button. I’m not sure I can get to where Esau is standing. Some people wounded me so gravely that I am not sure I can forgive the pain. How can I get to Esau’s level of forgiveness? Maybe the answer is found in baby steps. Perhaps we must start by praying to God to make us be able to pray for forgiveness. It may take years. Whatever the process, the goal is to find some way to release ourselves of the anger and hurt we feel. Notice the negative feelings are about us and not the one(s) who hurt us.

I love the way this story ends. Isaac, their father dies, and both Jacob and Esau bury him. The brothers come together to demonstrate their new found friendship. Hope was restored, and new ways of being in a relationship with one another changed. A new life started with forgiveness, and nothing is the same.

Published by joekmac

I am a pastor in the United Methodist Tradition. I am the Pastor of Hamlin Memorial United Methodist Church in the New Mexico Annual Conference. I am married to Cazandra and have two sons with hemophilia.

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