Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Face of Forgiveness

Have you ever done something that hurt someone, or been hurt by someone, so greatly that you don't know if you'll ever forgive each other?

In the classic story of Jacob and Esau (Book of Genesis), we see how a brotherly relationship was broken by deceit and impatience: deceit on Jacob's part in which he knowingly tricks his brother and steals his birthright, and impatience on Esau's part by unwisely trading his inheritance for a moment's worth of satisfaction in the form of a grain soup (chapter 25 and 27).

This story makes me wonder about the kind of relationship that these two brothers had.  My sisters and I, and there are three of us ^^, have a very good relationship.  Though one is highly artistic, the other highly practical, and I am highly emotional, we've been taught enough and love each other enough to not bring strife to one another.  The Bible was not really descriptive to the kind of relationship that Jacob and Esau had, but from what it does tell us, the brothers couldn't be more different from each other, and their mother favored Jacob, the younger of the two.

In the whispers of my mind and heart, I question Jacob, how could he hurt his own brother in such a way?  And because there is no peace in sin, Jacob flees from Esau.

Henceforth, God allows many years of refining for Jacob.  Jacob, away from his homeland and family, also learns how it is to be tricked and be hurt by his own family member, by Laban his uncle.  
"So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” (Genesis 29:25).

Finally, when the time came for Jacob to cross ways with his brother again, he trembled at the thought, and even strategically divided his family just in case that Esau decided to attack him.  What heaviness of heart it is to experience when one whom you should have had a loving relationship with becomes the enemy you fear.

What is the outcome of this brotherly strife?  In God's own plan and goodness, forgiveness and reconciliation reigned supreme.  The brothers share a very heartwarming moment told in Genesis 33:4-10:
  But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.  Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. 
  “Who are these with you?” he asked. 
   Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”  Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down.  Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down.  Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.  
  Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?”
  “To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.
   But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”
   “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.  Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.

This is what true forgiveness looks like.  As Jacob gives the greatest compliment to his brother, the Bible gives us another glimpse into forgiveness: "For to see your face is like seeing the face of God" (v. 10).

Our God's face is the very face of love and forgiveness.  It is the face that saves, redeems, and reconciles us back to Him.  And towards one another, I would like to quote Pastor Ravi Zacharias on the beauty of his words, "The key to all relationships and to reconciliation is for each party to be willing to see the face of God in the face of the other" (p. 153).

I want to leave you with this: I believe that the Almighty God, though is very much involved in the workings of the universe, the spin of the planets, and the rise of the tides, is also very much involved in you and me, and the relationships that we've formed.  From the ashes of hurts and brokenness, the beauty of forgiveness, the beauty of the face of God, can still one day be seen.

Works Cited:
The Bible. New International Version. Biblegateway.com. 
Zacharias, Ravi.  I, Isaac, take Thee, Rebekah. Nashville: Thomas Nelsen, Inc., 2004.
"Take a Breather" from http://www2.Emmagem.com.
Workers for Jesus Online Bible Study, http://www.workersforjesus.com/gen25-27.htm.
Free Stories. Net.  "Old Testimony Story of Jacob and Esau".  http://www.free-stories.net/children-bible-stories/old-testament-stories/old-testament-story-of-jacob-and-esau.html.

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