Jacob prepared for the worst with his brother, Esau. His fear was real and valid, for years ago he had cheated his brother, and his brother had vowed to kill him. Esau did, in fact, come for Jacob, but not to harm him. “Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” ~ Genesis 33:4
More than twenty years had passed, and both men had grown wealthy with family and with livestock. And it appears that God had softened the heart of Esau and replaced the hatred and anger with forgiveness and love for his brother.
Forgiveness. What a hard thing to grant sometimes, isn’t it? But as believers, we are commanded to forgive, as God Himself has forgiven us.
Jesus had a lot to say about forgiveness.
“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'” ~ Matthew 18:21-22. (To infinity, and beyond…)
“‘And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions.'” ~ Mark 11:25.
I don’t think this means that our forgiveness depends upon OUR actions. We can do nothing to earn it. God offers us His love and forgiveness and salvation freely, as a gift that we simply need to accept from Him. I think that our fellowship with God is broken when we don’t forgive others, so He can’t forgive this unforgiveness in our lives and restore our relationship with Him until we acknowledge it and forgive that other person. Unforgiveness is a sin in our lives that needs to be confessed.
“‘For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.'” ~ Luke 7:47. The older I get, the more I recognize what a sinner I am, and the more thankful I am for God’s forgiveness. I truly have been forgiven much! And I should forgive others much.
Unforgiveness leads to bitterness, broken relationships, and poisoned souls. And it hurts no one more than your own self. The person who has wronged you might feel bad, or even fearful like Jacob, but you are not hurting them or causing them damage or getting revenge by not forgiving them. You are, however, causing yourself damage by holding on to those past wounds and hurts, remaining a victim, and perhaps even obsessing over it. You can literally make yourself sick.
God’s forgiveness is perfect and just. He takes it a step further and FORGETS our sin. Wow.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” ~ Psalm 103:12
“‘AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.’ Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus… let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” ~ Hebrews 10:17-19, 22
We are assured that when we accept Jesus’ gift of His death on the cross for our sins, we are washed clean by His blood. If we are washed clean, then there is no sin, no debt we still owe.
In John 13:10, when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, He was teaching them that once you are washed by His blood, you are clean, but you need to maintain “clean feet”.
“Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean…'”
We keep right on sinning after being cleansed by the blood of Jesus and having received His gift of salvation. So we need to be constantly confessing those daily sins in order to maintain a right relationship with God and have “clean feet”.
And now, I need to go wash my feet…