Twin boys Jacob and Esau were born to Issac and Rebekah, son and daughter-in-law of the patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah. Their contrast in physical nature, their interests and the favoritism of both parents led to a serious and constant rivalry between the boys.
When they were young men, Jacob took advantage of Esau’s hunger and cheated him out of his birthright in exchange for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25), and later stole the blessing of their father Isaac promised to Esau. A later injustice by Jacob and his mother Rebekah resulted in Esau’s hatred, who determined to kill his brother.
But Jacob fled to Rebekah’s brother Laban in Mesopotamia, where he stayed in that home for 20 years. While there, Jacob married Laban’s two daughters, Rachel and Leah.
Following his long time in Mesopotamia, Jacob returns home to Canaan with his wives and children. Approaching his homeland, he meets Esau and his army. Jacob is mortally afraid of seeing his brother again and tries to prepare for survival of himself and his people.
Amazingly, instead of attacking Jacob when they saw one another, the injured brother, Esau, ran with arms wide open to greet his brother in a spirit of love and forgiveness.
Revenge — the “iron rule” — is a common attitude among sinful men and women. Everyone is subject to the temptation to “get back” at those who’ve injured us. “I show them they can’t get away with that!” Have you ever felt this way toward someone? If not, you may be in a small minority.
When we are hurt by someone, we may want to hurt them in return, because our ego is involved. Sometimes the desire for vengeance may not be expressed outwardly, but felt inwardly, poisoning the heart.
The apostle Paul commands his readers, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:17-19).
As in everything, Jesus is our example in living vengeance-free. “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
“Time heals all wounds,” if we are willing to be patient with one another. That’s a big “if,” isn’t it? Is it possible? Sure. But we have to want the wound to be made well. Again, that’s the catch. And the desire for reconciliation must be present in both persons.
God sent his son to save the world, not to condemn it (John 3:16, 17). How can we refuse grace to others when God extends it to us?
Many — I wish it was “most” or “all” — want a right relationship with others.
When we are willing to forgive and accept others, we allow wounds to heal eventually, and restored relations can come about. It’s a constant, often difficult task, but it is so worth it, don’t you think? Of course, only we can do this — others can encourage it, but the change of heart is up to us.
Can we have grace toward others? Yes, simply by following the example set by our Lord toward us.