Then Esau ran to meet him [his brother] and embraced him affectionately and kissed him. Both of them were in tears. Genesis 33:4 (NLT)
Jacob, Esau’s brother, had been gone from home a long time; more than twenty years. But before he left, he had made sure Esau’s anger would last a lifetime. Jacob had stolen the birthright of the oldest son, the blessing of their father, Isaac, and the heart’s affection of their mother. Esau had nothing left but the fire in his eyes; a burning-hot crematorium of contemplated revenge for when his brother came home. When Jacob had slinked-out of town in the middle of the night twenty years prior, Esau vowed to send him to his ancestors the next time they met.
At least that was the plan.
Something happened to Esau in the time Jacob was gone. We are not told by Scripture exactly what changed the older brother’s mind about exacting his “pound of flesh”. But when Jacob returned, Esau welcomed him like…well…a long-lost brother!
Was it just a twenty-year cool-off? Had Esau had an epiphany, a visit from an angel? Whatever changed the older brother made the reunion worthy of a Hallmark Movie ending. There was hugging, kissing, gifts and “you first…no, you first” enough to start a mutual admiration society and homecoming dinner on the grounds. Sweet!
In part one of this series we talked about needing to put forgiveness on the prayer agenda – the “why” we must forgive – God said so.
Yesterday, in part two, we investigated the first of the “how-to’s of forgiving” – making a decision to dig a hole for all the dead stuff of unforgiveness.
And in today’s text we are reminded of a second “how-to” of forgiving:
If you pick the story apart you will notice that Jacob acted like the visiting stranger. He sent gifts to his estranged brother, approached the home place by degrees, slowly. And when they met eye to eye, it was Jacob eyeballing the dust, bowing seven times before the master of the home, his brother Esau.
We know from the story that Jacob was a changed man, and perhaps Esau picked up on that, and it was enough to start the tears and welcome home party.
But I think there’s more.
Jacob was doing what a stranger would have done in the Eastern culture of that time, gifts, slow bows, formality and all. But Esau’s first move was to run to his brother with embraces and kisses. I believe it was the heart of Esau, seeing his brother acting like a stranger in a place where he should have been family; it pushed him over the edge.
If you will take God seriously where it comes to those you need to forgive, it will happen when you choose to see your brother or sister as a broken part of the body, one who needs an embrace – not a noose!
And, it’s YOUR job to get the ball rolling. The only way this works is when YOU make the first move….become vulnerable to another rejection!
I know….I know…. I don’t like it either, but picking up a cross and following daily demands such things of mature disciples of the Nazarene – it’s what we do!