By Gene Price
Pastor, Tumbling Creek Baptist Church, Gleason
Conflict is part of life. It is never a pleasant experience. Conflict can and does occur even among believers. We see conflict in marriage, in churches, and in the work place. In our text, we find conflict between two brothers who happen to be twins — Jacob and Esau. It was customary for the oldest brother in a family to receive the birthright. Jacob, the younger of the two brothers, tricked his older brother, Esau, out of his birthright. Being deceived, Esau, full of bitterness and anger, determined to kill Jacob when their father Isaac died (Genesis 27:41). Jacob decided to put some distance between him and Esau so he went to live with his mother’s brother, Laban.
Selfishness and pride are often the cause of conflict. The conflict between Jacob and Esau is caused by the favoritism shown to each by their parents. Rebekah, their mother, favored Jacob. Isaac, their father, favored Esau. The selfishness of the parents comes to fruition in the lives of their children. Jacob wanted the birthright in order to promote himself. Esau only thought of satisfying his immediate needs rather than thinking about his future.
Just as selfishness destroys relationships, humility can rebuild relationships. Humility puts a person in a position for reconciliation to occur. Years later, Jacob and Esau reunite. Upon seeing Esau, Jacob bowed to the ground seven times. By bowing, Jacob approached Esau with the right spirit and the right attitude. This posture proves that Jacob acknowledged that he had done wrong in this relationship. Esau sees Jacob and runs to meet him. Jacob had wrestled with God in the previous chapter, leaving Jacob unable to run from Esau as he approached. To Jacob’s astonishment, Esau wasn’t running to kill him, but to reconcile with him. Esau threw his arms around him, kissed him, and then wept. Both Jacob and Esau embrace. That is an act of vulnerability. Each accepted his part in the damaged relationship. Forgiveness is not optional in reconciling a broken relationship. Forgiveness involves letting go so you can get on with the rest of your life.
Jacob wanted to be reconciled and therefore he offered restitution. Jacob wanted to make things right. He had wronged his brother. He had stolen Esau’s birthright and all the possessions that went with that birthright. So in verse 8, Jacob gave some of his herds and flock to Esau in restitution for the wrong he had suffered. Restitution is easier when it comes to physical property. It is the restitution of the heart that is often more difficult, especially when a person has said words that damage another’s name and character.
In verse 10 we see a glimpse of God in this process. Jacob tells Esau, “I have seen your face, and it is like seeing God’s face, since you have accepted me.” When we extend forgiveness to a person who has wronged us, we demonstrate the love and forgiveness that we ourselves received when God restored us with the love of Christ. In return, our restitution to God is made complete by living a life given in service to Him and to others.