Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men… he put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 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 33:1-4
In Like Dew Your Youth, Eugene Peterson writes: “A search of Scripture turns up one rather surprising truth: there are no exemplary families. Not a single family is portrayed in Scripture in such a way so as to evoke admiration in us. There are many family stories, there is considerable reference to family life, and there is sound counsel to guide the growth of families, but not a single model family for anyone to look up to in either awe or envy.”
It is obvious that human beings need some mighty delivering power to help us reconcile—all we need to do is look at our families. The infection of sin in the human race has resulted in alienation, enmity, and revenge, even within families. In the second generation, one man (Cain) murders his own brother (Abel) for nothing more than simple jealousy. And later in Genesis the grandsons of Abraham, Jacob, and Esau become mortal enemies. It began when the crafty Jacob maneuvered his way into getting the inheritance due his older brother. (And with the help of his mother!) Years later, after Jacob had lived hundreds of miles away but then decided to return to his homeland, he knew he would have to face the brother he had so terribly wronged.
A miracle happened somewhere out in the desert. Esau decided not to exact revenge, but to accept his brother back. Even before Esau received gifts from Jacob and the respect of bowing to the ground many times, Esau wanted the kinship more than retribution.
This is the miracle of forgiveness, as Jacob says to Esau “to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably” (Gen. 33:10). This moment was a “win” for reconciliation. It takes the knowledge of God for us to rise above family discord and bitterness. Sad to say, the subsequent generations of Jacob and Esau became enemies. Reconciliation requires ongoing commitment.
PONDER: Where in your family might forgiveness be the key to resolving enmity?
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Special Siblings Reconciled
Dottie grew up feeling estranged from her younger brother Buzz. As siblings, she recalls being inseparable. Then one day, right around the time when Buzz was just old enough to cross the street on his own, Dottie noticed a significant change in his behavior towards her. “He hated me,” she said.
No one specific event transpired to cause the relational divide; rather, their bond fractured under the stress of ever-surmounting jealousy that stemmed from parental favoritism. Dottie’s father chose her as his ally, and her mother chose Buzz.
Dottie always sought to be amiable with Buzz, but he flat-out rejected her. Sometime after becoming a Christian at the age of 36, Dottie wrote a letter to Buzz, expressing her heartfelt loss over their kinship and futile efforts to restore peace. “I’ve done all I can,” she shared. “The next move will be yours.”
Dottie heard nothing from Buzz until five months before he died. She received a phone call from his wife stating that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. The nearness of death prompted Buzz to reach out to his sister and receive the Lord, confessing with tears. After Buzz’s funeral, Jesus continued to weave a pattern of reconciliation throughout the family. Several children and extended relatives have since come to know Christ.
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