|Forgive Thy Brother, by Scott Erickson,2017
As Christians, we hold dear the principles of forgiveness and reconciliation. Both the Bible and the Christian experience are redemption rich. These themes are often found in stories about brothers. Do you have a story of forgiveness between you and a brother? The Bible has many.
Today, we are going to explore two such stories from Scripture. One is told by Jesus and the other is recounted in Genesis. The parable of the Prodigal Son and the story of Jacob and Esau. These timeless narratives offer us profound lessons about God's boundless love and the transformative power of forgiveness. Let us journey through these sacred stories, drawing inspiration for our own relationships.
The Prodigal Son: A Story of Redemption
Our journey begins with the Parable of the Prodigal Son, shared by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. This story unfolds the tale of a wayward son who demanded his inheritance, squandered it recklessly, and found himself in spiritual and material destitution. However, in the depths of his despair, he came to a moment of reckoning.
Luke captures the essence of the prodigal son's rebellion: "The younger one said to his father, 'Give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country, and there squandered his wealth in wild living" (Luke 15:12-13).
As the prodigal son hits rock bottom, surrounded by swine and squalor, he comes to his senses. The son realizes the consequences of his actions and decides to return to his father, to humbly repent of his waywardness. This decision is a turning point in his life.
Jesus paints a profound picture of the prodigal son's return: "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him" (Luke 15:20). This parable exemplifies the joy in Heaven when a sinner repents. The Father's love and forgiveness knows no bounds!
Henri J.M. Nouwen, in his book "The Return of the Prodigal Son," summarises Jesus’ parable perfectly: "The story of the Prodigal Son is the story of a God who goes searching for us, runs toward us, and welcomes us back with open arms, regardless of our past."
As I read about the Prodigal Son's return, I couldn't help but think about the brother who stayed home. He was resentful when his father was grace-full. He was jealous when his father was generous. He was selfish when his father was celebrating. This bitter brother reminds us to join the Father in celebration, generosity and grace when a lost child comes home.
Changing Hearts: A Story Worth Telling
When I was 12 years old, I was asked by my pastor to preach a sermon. He recommended I dress as a Biblical figure and act out the story. A few weeks later, I stood before the congregation, dressed in a brightly coloured costume, sandals and a headscarf, and enacted the story of the Prodigal Son.
I invited my adult uncle, who was not a believer, to come and hear my story. To my astonishment on the day, he was there in the audience. As I reached the part where the father embraced his son, I noticed tears running down my uncle's face.
It was a profound moment that emphasized the power of the parable and set my life on a new course - I wanted to keep doing whatever I had done that day. Telling the story of God’s love and forgiveness touches hearts and changes lives!
Jacob and Esau: A Story of Reconciliation
Now, let's turn to the narrative of Jacob and Esau in Genesis chapters 27 to 33. This story portrays a tale of deception, sibling rivalry, estrangement, and, ultimately, reconciliation.
Jacob lied to his blind father and tricked him into blessing him with the inheritance of God’s promises rather than allowing it to go to his older brother, Esau, as it should have. The depth of Jacob's deception is revealed when Father Isaac said to Esau: "Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing" (Genesis 27:35). This act sowed deep discord between the brothers.
Esau, understandably hurt and betrayed, “held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, 'The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.'" (Genesis 27:41). In modern English: “Once dad is dead, so are you!”
Fearing for his life, Jacob fled to his uncle Laban's house, where he lived in exile for many years. The relationship between the brothers remained deeply fractured.
However, years later, in a moment of divine grace and transformation, Esau forgave Jacob. Genesis 33:4 beautifully captures the reconciliation: "But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept."
Both stories emphasize the importance of recognizing our sins, repentance, and seeking reconciliation with our Heavenly Father and with one another.
They also speak of the nature of God’s love. Just as the father in the Prodigal Son parable embraced his wayward son, and as Esau forgave Jacob, God's love is unconditional, and His mercy knows no bounds. These stories remind us that all of Heaven celebrates when a sinner repents. There is a profound joy that comes with reconciliation and restoration in our own lives.
C.S. Lewis once said, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." That’s what it's all about. Forgive as you have been forgiven.
When he realised the heart of Esau was filled only with forgiveness, Jacob declared, "To see your face is like seeing the face of God" (Genesis 33:10). This profound statement underscores the idea that reconciliation and forgiveness are God's prime attributes. When we extend forgiveness and experience reconciliation, we catch a glimpse of God. In such moments, we revel in Divine love and mercy.
As followers of Jesus, let us carry these lessons with us, always ready to forgive and seek reconciliation. Whether we find ourselves in the role of the Prodigal Son, in need of repentance, or like Esau, ready to extend forgiveness, may we strive to emulate the love and forgiveness shown by our Heavenly Father.
May you know the unbounded love and mercy of God.
May you, like the brother who chose forgiveness over resentment, be ready to forgive.
May you recognize the face of God when you receive forgiveness from others.
And, may you experience Heaven’s profound joy every time the Father calls for a celebration!