A common phrase to hear when talking about forgiveness is, “You can forgive, but you can never forget.” The Bible answer to that would be that God never asked you to forget. God asked you to forgive and to have compassion so that the bitterness and all its troubles do not consume you. Ephesians 4:26 says, “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” It is okay for you to feel angry and to be mad, but don’t let those emotions cause you to lash out and to sin. It is okay to feel upset, but also don’t let being upset turn into holding a grudge and becoming bitter. People can hold onto a grudge for decades and the anger will make those decades feel as though they were just wronged yesterday.
In the beginning of the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25-27, bitterness and anger seem like it is to be a common theme. Jacob not only tricked his older brother Esau out of his inheritance, but he also tricked their dad Isaac into giving him the blessing his older brother should have gotten. After these two instances, Esau has had it and threatens to kill Jacob once their dad passes away. Thus, Jacob leaves and they don’t talk or speak for 20 years. In Genesis 32 Isaac still is not dead but since it has been 20 years and the brothers are in the same area, Jacob reaches out to Esau by messengers. One can imagine the fear that Jacob has when the response is that Esau is coming with 400 men.
Based on how he left Jacob immediately assumes the worst and begins to pray. Is your response to fear to lean God as well? It is important to lean on God because fear is a strong emotion that will make us want to doubt God as though we are wrestling Him in our faith. In a power battle God is always going to win against us. God allows Jacob to win his wrestling match with God, but because Jacob overcame his fear of man with faith God answers Jacob’s prayer (Genesis 32:22-32). It is important to note here that God isn’t always going to answer in the way we want or expect. As Genesis 32 points out, answers Jacobs prayer in saying that He will be with Jacob, but Jacob must face this ordeal with a hurt hip.
Jacob and Esau finally meet in Genesis chapter 33 and much to Jacob’s and the reader’s surprise, Esau is weeping. Sometime during the 2o years Esau had forgiven his brother and seen the blessings that he had despite the anger. Esau made a choice to push past his anger and Jacob chose to work past his fear to make amends with his brother. Whether you are the forgiver or the person needing forgiveness, each side has to push past their own struggles. Since humans cannot control others though, an independent choice must be made. Will you lean on and trust God or succumb to bitterness and fear? The consequences of the choices we make, and the obstacles we come across in life will become tremendous blessings from God (Genesis 50:15-21). But only if we choose to rely on Him (Hebrews 13:6-8).
Inspired by: Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:8-17