And Isaac breathed his last, and he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him. Genesis 35:29
I’ve got people in my life with whom I’d like to find reconciliation one day. I think I’ve done what I can to make peace, but I’m only half of the equation. For my part, I’ve had to work on letting go of the debt that I feel was owed. That’s not easy because once I feel I’ve been wronged, I want to hang onto it until I see groveling and tears. I’ll never get that though, so for my part, I’ve had to let it go, reach out, and wait to see if the other party responds, which they may never do. I don’t intend to sound calloused, but these relationships are somewhat peripheral to my life, so I’m not losing sleep over them. What if however, I lived in perpetual conflict with a parent, spouse, child, or sibling?
Such is the situation created by Jacob and Esau. Though they were twins, they fought each other before they were even born (Genesis 25:22). After their birth, they lived in continual conflict – Jacob cheated Esau and Esau plotted to kill Jacob. So, Jacob fled, leaving home for 20 years, during which time both brothers apparently grew up. When they were finally reunited, they embraced, letting go of the debts of the past. Here, in today’s passage, we see that they once again came together for their father’s funeral. Though they lived in conflict for years, they were eventually able to reconcile, letting go of past wrongs to make the family relationship work.
For our own emotional and spiritual health, it’s important that we seek reconciliation with those with whom we live in conflict. For our part, we must attempt to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). Christ commanded us to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). We must forgive each other (Ephesians 4:32) and we’re even supposed to love those whom we consider enemies (Matthew 5:44). As Christians, we’re not meant to wallow in resentment, hatred, and bitterness.
Reconciliation requires two parties though, and we cannot control the other. Often though, conflict is perpetuated by neither side letting go of past debts. For our part, we must forgive, even when we realize that it might not bring about reconciliation. All we can do is act rightly ourselves. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, and boundaries may still be appropriate. If someone has hurt us nine times, forgiveness doesn’t mean allowing them to do it a tenth time. We may never reconcile, but for our part, for our own emotional and spiritual health, we must let go of the debts of the past, living rightly ourselves.