What would you do if someone ruined the rest of your life?

The Bible teaches us to forgive.

Eph. 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Col. 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

We often associate forgiveness with minor offenses such as harsh words or insults, but what if someone severely impacts the rest of our life. What if our spouse commits adultery? What if a parent or child is murdered? What if we are injured beyond repair? What if we suffer great financial loss? What if our career is ruined? Would we be able to forgive in those situations?

Genesis contains an example of such forgiveness. Genesis tells us about a man named Isaac who had twin sons: Esau and Jacob. When they were grown, Jacob deceived his father so that he would receive a blessing that should have gone to his brother Esau.

Gen. 27:19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.”

Isaac fell for the deception and blessed Jacob instead of Esau. What did Esau lose when Isaac blessed Jacob instead of Esau?

Gen. 27:37 But Isaac replied to Esau, “Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?”

Gen. 27:38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” So Esau lifted his voice and wept.

Gen. 27:39 ¶ Then Isaac his father answered and said to him,
“Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling,
And away from the dew of heaven from above.

Gen. 27:40 “By your sword you shall live,
And your brother you shall serve;
But it shall come about when you become restless,
That you will break his yoke from your neck.”

Esau did not merely lose something trivial, his entire life was going to be affected. Esau was going to be subservient to Jacob and he was not going to prosper.

After Esau found out what Jacob did, he wanted to kill Jacob.

Gen. 27:41 ¶ So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

Because of Esau’s threat, Jacob fled to another land and was gone 20 years. While away, Jacob got married, had children, and became wealthy. When Jacob decided to return home, he sent a message to his brother Esau. What was his message? Notice the word “favor”.

Gen. 32:3 ¶ Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.

Gen. 32:4 He also commanded them saying, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: ‘Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now;

Gen. 32:5 I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.”’”

Gen. 32:6 ¶ The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”

Jacob was asking for favor. Jacob was asking to come home peacefully. Jacob didn’t directly ask for forgiveness, but it was close. Now read what happened when they finally met. Did Esau forgive Jacob’s transgression?

Gen. 33:1 ¶ Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids.

Gen. 33:2 He put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last.

Gen. 33:3 But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

Gen. 33:4 ¶ Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

Gen. 33:5 He lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, “Who are these with you?” So he said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.”

Gen. 33:6 Then the maids came near with their children, and they bowed down.

Gen. 33:7 Leah likewise came near with her children, and they bowed down; and afterward Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed down.

Gen. 33:8 And he said, “What do you mean by all this company which I have met?” And he said, “To find favor in the sight of my lord.”

Gen. 33:9 But Esau said, “I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own.”

Gen. 33:10 Jacob said, “No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably.

Gen. 33:11 “Please take my gift which has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty.” Thus he urged him and he took it.

Gen. 33:12 ¶ Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.”

Gen. 33:13 But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die.

Gen. 33:14 “Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.”

Gen. 33:15 ¶ Esau said, “Please let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.”

Gen. 33:16 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir.

Gen. 33:17 Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock; therefore the place is named Succoth.

The Bible doesn’t tell us how or why, but Esau found a way to let go of the past and forgive Jacob. The absence of the blessing is something Esau had to live with the rest of his life, and there was nothing Jacob could ever do to undo the damage he had done to Esau, but somehow Esau managed to forgive Jacob and move on with life.

Would we be able to do what Esau did? Would we be able to forgive someone who ruined the rest of our life? Would we be able to forgive adultery, murder, injury, financial loss, or career loss? Just as Jacob did something that impacted the rest of Esau’s life, so too people can do things to us that impact the rest of our lives. But just as Esau found a way to forgive Jacob, so too we need to find a way to forgive. Even when someone has ruined our life, we need to find a way to forgive and move on.


Further Reading

What should replace revenge?

Do you want revenge?


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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”