Six Traits of Forgiveness

Six Traits of Forgiveness

Genesis 33:4 – But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

As we’ve read through Genesis, we’ve seen a lot of fighting and strife, especially among family members, but here in Genesis 33 we finally see some hope in a beautiful picture of forgiveness, foreshadowing how Jacob’s son Joseph would later forgive his own brothers in one of the great forgiveness stories of the Bible.

Jacob had previously run away from home, in fear of his life because of his brother Esau’s rage. They had warred their entire life, since their mother’s womb, and Jacob hadn’t seen his brother in 20 years, assuming he would still be incredibly angry with him. Esau, however, meets him, shows him kindness and forgiveness, and embraces him.

From this story, we learn six things about forgiveness:

  1. Forgiveness allows you to move on with or without the other person. If you’re able to reconcile relationship, then that is the ultimate goal, but if not, you’re still able to forgive them. Jacob forgave Laban, but still moved on without him. On the other hand, Esau forgave Jacob, but they were able to reconcile and move forward in relationship.
  2. Forgiveness is how you pass the case to God’s court to judge. Ultimately, we must remember that we have wronged God in much grander ways than anyone else has wronged us, so we don’t deserve to hold wrongs against others. This doesn’t mean we trust them again, but we are called to forgive them, giving it up to God to ultimately judge. There are many things considered “sin” that God calls us to obey that the world wouldn’t consider a “crime”.
  3. Forgiveness starts one day but happens many days. As Jesus says in Matthew 18:22 when asked how many times we should forgive, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times”. We may feel like we’ve forgiven someone, but a circumstance may bring them to mind and we have to continually forgive them. It’s both a one-time and an ongoing process.
  4. Forgiveness is choosing to heal so you don’t hurt others. If we are bitter and unforgiving, we can start to live in an embittered state and turn the ways we’ve been hurt towards hurting others out of our unhappiness. Forgiving allows you to move forward in a healthy and healed up way.
  5. Forgiveness opens you to blessing your enemy as the test of forgiveness. You know you’ve truly forgiven someone if want good for someone and can pray for them to be blessed, not cursed. As Jesus says in Luke 6:28, “…bless those who curse you…”
  6. Forgiveness is a gift to the person who hurt you and to yourself. Forgiveness is primarily for you and the person may or may not know that you’ve forgiven them. But it helps you to move forward in a healthy way physically, mentally, emotionally, and relationally.

If you want to learn more about forgiveness, I would encourage you to read R.T. Kendall’s Total Forgiveness or watch the sermon from his visit to Trinity Church in summer 2021 by the same title by clicking here:

Who do you need to forgive or are praying for reconciliation with?

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Mark Driscoll
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