Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept. - Genesis 33:4 One of the greatest examples of forgiveness in the Old Testament is Esau's forgiveness and acceptance of his brother Jacob. Often overlooked and forgotten in the New Testament by the church fathers, Esau (Edom) is always remembered for selling his birth right, having his father's blessing stolen from him, and receiving the lesser blessing (if not a curse) from Issac, his father.
Esau's story is sometimes more relatable to me as a leader than his brother Jacob's story. I understand his mistake in selling his birth right. He made the poor decision when he was hungry and tired. Two physical states that often lead to poor decision making and even sin in my own life.
I don't know if you are like me, but when I don't take the time to ensure I'm well fed, hydrated, and rested then my decision making ability suffers. I snap at people, I think selfishly, I pity myself, and I justify behaviors and actions that take me away from living and leading with purpose.
I also understand his rage at his brother for stealing his blessing from Issac and forcing Issac to give him a blessing that reads more like a curse. Here he was the first born son of Issac - the grandson of the great Abraham, both men patriarchs of the Hebrew people - and he has his blessing stolen by a conniving, jealous, younger brother.
In my experience I've had things taken from me that I thought I was owed - jobs, sales, commissions, praise, you name it. If it has not happened to you yet, it will. When it does you cannot help but feel anger, frustration, and a small (maybe big) desire for revenge.
It is in these difficult moments where I've learned that as a leader I must draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit and simply talk to God. Asking him for help to cleanse my heart, bring justice where it is in alignment with his will, and give me an attitude that reflects Christ more than it does my human nature.
Sometimes it just takes time though. Time to wrestle with the pain and frustration. Time to let your anger subside - your hatred to lessen - and for your heart and soul to humbly come before the LORD saying, "forgive me and forgive those who have wronged me".
At some point in his life, we don't know when or where, Esau reached this point. He reached the point where he made his peace with God and with Jacob. His heart was changed, his rage subsided, and he was able to forgive. He extends his hand to Jacob in a moment when he could have crushed him and destroyed him.
It is not mentioned but I think Esau may have come to peace with God's will for his life as well. And I think this is the most impressive part of the story. Esau knows his lot in life, knows the past, but is still able to embrace someone that will have more blessings, honor, and position than he ever will - someone that has wronged him in many ways - and he is able to offer forgiveness and reconciliation.
I like remembering Esau for this part of his story more than any other part, because it gives me hope. Hope that I too can make peace with God and others through forgiveness.
LORD thank you for the example of Esau. Help me to forgive even when it is difficult and hating someone would be so much easier. Holy Spirit, change my heart and mind to be that of a peacemaker with those that have harmed me or wronged me. Jesus, thank you for the example you gave of forgiveness, mercy, and grace. I want that to be how I live as well. Give me the courage to follow your example each day with those I love, lead, and serve. Amen.
- Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive?
- What are the effects of not forgiving someone?
- Are you creating a culture with those you love and lead that promotes forgiveness and second chances?
Make it a great day!