In Genesis 33, we encounter the story of Jacob's meeting with his brother Esau after having betrayed him, taking everything from him, and bolting. While Jacob deserved no kindness from his brother, the story unfolds as a glorious depiction of undeserved and unexpected forgiveness.
"Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men... He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept." Genesis 33:1, 3-4
What an incredible image of grace - free, unmerited favor - and mercy - undeserved compassion and forgiveness shown to someone who doesn't deserve it. And Jacob certainly didn't deserve any of it.
I read this passage the other day during my morning devo time, and the question that I have been wrestling with since is why is it so difficult for us to follow Esau's example of forgiveness? Why do we so often choose, instead, to hold onto hurt? Why do we let it fester, and consequently harden our hearts and deepen our wounds?
And then I was convicted by this truth: when we choose to harbor unforgiveness, we are not obeying what God asks of us! His desire is for us to forgive one another, as He has forgiven us. But forgiveness is not easy. In fact, it's usually really, really difficult. It seems to almost go against nature, even... or is that just our broken, sinful nature? I don't claim to have any answers, but I do think that learning to forgive others is one of the greatest and most challenging things we can do. Not only does forgiveness benefit the forgiven, but also the forgiver. When we forgive, we are able to let go of something that otherwise often hurts us in the long run. A forgiving heart is a full one, my friends. [At the same time, however, I don't believe in allowing others to think that they can walk all over us as a result of our ability to forgive. If that becomes an issue, that person probably doesn't value you the way that you deserve to be. Caution is a good idea in such instances.]
I pray you may be encouraged by the following words that the Lord spoke over me the other day...
Learn to forgive easily. Refuse to harbor unforgiveness, which can so easily lead to bitterness and resentment. Choose to extend grace and mercy to those who may not deserve it, simply because that is exactly what God has done for you.
Is there someone that God is challenging you to forgive today? Do you need to ask for someone else's forgiveness?