Esau and Forgiveness

My sermon today was on Esau, focusing on forgiveness and reconciliation. I was asked to post a quote from Lewis Smedes that I used in the closing: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Here is the end of the study I wrote to accompany the sermon:

The most remarkable story of Esau comes at his reunion with Jacob when the long-gone brother returns to Canaan. Understandably, Jacob is terrified of meeting his brother. Jacob knows what he did to Esau and expects his twin to wreak mighty vengeance to set right the wrong. So Jacob carefully arranges the encounter, sending ahead plenty of gifts to try to assuage Esau’s justifiable anger. As he approaches Esau, Jacob bows to the ground seven times. He is a very nervous man.

But when the moment comes, Esau runs to meet Jacob, throwing his arms around his neck and kissing him. The brothers break down in tears. It is a touching moment that says much to us still about the power of forgiveness. In those moments, Esau went from being a supporting actor to a main character.

Esau grasps that forgiveness is like breathing. It must be breathed out as we breathe it in. Forgiveness received is forgiveness that must be passed on. When we are forgiven, but refuse to forgive, it is like trying to take in a breath and hold it rather than breathing it out. Eduard Schweizer put it this way: ‘God’s forgiveness is not for decoration but for use.’ A truly grateful heart is also a forgiving heart.

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