Ending Two Grudges
by Jacob Hudgins
“But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept”(Gen 33:4)
Jacob is fervently praying. “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children”(Gen 32:11). Jacob has twice schemed to defraud his brother and has run to a foreign land after Esau threatened to kill him. Now he is returning, at the head of a huge caravan, with his four wives and many children. Word comes that Esau is coming to meet him with four hundred men! Jacob thinks quickly and divides the group into two companies in case of an attack. In a final desperate act to assuage his brother’s anger, he “bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother”(Gen 33:3). The moment is tense; what will Esau do? “But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept”(Gen 33:4). Finally, gloriously, the grudge was ended!
Ten grown men are similarly nervous. They have just buried their father, yet their minds are not focused on grieving or remembering him. “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him’”(Gen 50:15). What will Joseph do? Has he been swallowing his anger for this moment? Has he been waiting until his father died so he could get his real revenge? “Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them”(Gen 50:19-20). Finally, gloriously, the grudge was ended!
Grudges are hard on all involved. When Esau and Jacob embrace, why do they weep together (Gen 33:4)? Perhaps they weep from the time lost, or the relief of letting it go, or the joy of seeing each other again. They are both overcome with the emotions caused by the long-term grudge. When Joseph first sees his brothers in Egypt, he speaks roughly to them (Gen 42:7), then accuses them (Gen 42:9), weeps (Gen 42:24), frames Benjamin (Gen 44), and weeps again (Gen 45:2). He is clearly struggling with the emotions of seeing his brothers again. Yet the brothers also feel the brunt of the past events, assuming that their trouble is because of their sin (Gen 42:21-22). The grudge is hard on both parties. Often grudges begin because one party wants to make the other party feel sorry for what they’ve done. The untold story of a grudge is the wear it causes on the one holding it — bitterness, unresolved anger, and malice. Wrestling with the past is difficult enough without harboring such poisonous emotions in our hearts.
Even long-term grudges can be forgotten. The length of these feuds is astounding. Jacob lived with Laban twenty years (Gen 31:41) while fearing Esau, and Joseph’s separation seems to be about twenty years as well. Yet these grudges end swiftly—with hugs and weeping—when the parties finally come back together. No grudge has been happening so long that it cannot be mended.
Most of all, these men show us that really difficult things can be forgiven. Jacob has finagled Esau’s birthright and blessing, and Esau has threatened his life. Joseph’s brothers have tried to kill him and have sold him into slavery. These are not the trifles that we often fight over, yet these men show the tremendous capacity we have to forgive when we are determined to do so. Perhaps we are not able to be reconciled in the joyous way these men were, but we can let go of the bitterness and malice we feel toward others—as we are commanded to do (Eph 4:31). These men do not show us that such forgiveness is easy, but that it is possible.
There is great joy in forgiveness. Don’t let grudges continue.