“But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
One of the interesting things about this story is that while it appears that Esau forgives Jacob, the rest of the history of the relationship between the descendants of the brothers (the nations of Israel and Edom) reveals that it either didn’t really take, was only skin deep, or more likely that the two had already passed enough bitterness toward each other along to their children that the well was poisoned. Israel and Edom were bitter enemies and the latter was usually the aggressor.
One of the dangers of unforgiveness in our hearts is that it won’t affect just us. It will affect those around us, changing the nature of their own relationship with our “enemy,” and forcing them to have to come to their own place of granting forgiveness for a wound the other person never dealt them. The truth is that our bitterness has caused them to hate this other person for no good reason except as an echo of our own hatred.
What ends up happening is that our bitterness causes a wound in them. But, because of the nature of the wound and their loyalty to us because of our relationship with them (especially in the case of a parent-child relationship), they operate under the impression that this other person has caused their wound. They believe this other person owes them a debt when the reality is that we do. And, should they come to a place of sincerely trying to forgive this other person, the wound won’t heal because they didn’t have a hand in causing it.
When this happens, we need to come to our own senses and seek to make amends with those we have hurt in our own anger. The funny thing about bitterness is that while we let it poison our insides, stewing over the wound we have been dealt, we spill our poison into the lives of the people around us, wounding them in the process. As hurt people, in other words, we hurt people.
The only solution to all of this mess is for us to forgive as quickly as we can when we have been hurt ourselves. We must move heaven and earth to make sure we do not let any root of bitterness take root in our hearts. The damage it will cause is too widespread to risk it. If you have been hurt, forgiveness is the only path forward, no matter where forward happens to be for you.
And, because of the surpassing greatness of the grace Jesus has won for us on the cross, we can forgive–indeed we must forgive–with freedom from the fear that our forgiveness will somehow prevent justice from being served. Justice has already been served on the cross for every offense ever dealt or yet to be committed. When we forgive, we live in this truth. Live in the truth. Forgive when you are hurt.