In his book “Forgive and Forget”, Lewis Smedes identifies these stages of forgiveness: We Hate; We Hurt; We Heal Ourselves; and We Come Together. That last stage is sometimes called reconciliation, if forgiveness is genuinely offered and also genuinely accepted, with a commitment to rebuilding what has been broken.
Sunday morning we will look at the story of Jacob and Esau, especially at Genesis 33: 1-17, which is sometimes referred to as “Jacob and Esau’s Reconciliation”. Years earlier, Jacob had conspired to steal Esau’s birthright from his father Isaac, and then, with help from his mother, Jacob pretended to be Esau and asked for Isaac’s blessing, which the nearly blind Isaac offered to him. Esau, as you can imagine, was furious, and Jacob fled the family.
The Genesis lesson describes how, many years later, the brothers meet again. Esau genuinely offers forgiveness to Jacob in how he greets him, but Jacob has retained his old scheming ways, and to my way of thinking, a true reconciliation is not achieved and the broken bonds are not completely healed.
In his book “Why Forgive”, author Johan Christoph Arnold writes, “The offering of forgiveness is unconditional. it requires nothing, except a willingness on one’s own part to be free and a longing for a broken relationship to be restored. Forgiveness doesn’t wait for an apology. However, before reconciliation can occur, the offender must feel genuine sorrow, remorse, and repentance. Repentance is sorrow converted into action.”
Take some time to read Genesis 33:1-17 and see if you think that true reconciliation has occurred. On Sunday, we’ll also look at a deeper meaning of reconciliation that Paul tells us about in Second Corinthians 5:16-21: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, and not counting their trespasses against them.” A question that we might ask ourselves is, “have we truly accepted that reconciliation to God?”