My dad often used to say jokingly, “God gives us our relatives; thank God we can choose our own friends!” We have always been generally a very happy family, and I know I’m very blessed to be a part of it. But of course all families have their issues from time to time, and it would have been some annoying incident that gave rise to my dad’s commenting.
Jacob’s family had had more than their fair share of issues. Many years before, he and his brother had parted company with Esau breathing death threats in Jacob’s direction (Genesis 27:41). After making himself scarce for about twenty years, Jacob felt it was time to meet up again, and arranged a short, tense introduction of his new family to Uncle Esau. The bible does not tell us how things were for them after that, until the death of their father Isaac, when Esau and Jacob buried their father side by side.
It could not have been a joyful occasion. Funerals never are. But how much harder it would have been if Esau and Jacob had not made at least some attempt at reconciliation. However badly they’d got on as boys, and whatever they had thought of each other in those years of estrangement, I’m sure at that moment they were so glad to have each other.
It occurred to me that we need to sort out difficult relationships. Whether in the family, at church, at work, in the neighbourhood, or wherever, we never know when a change of circumstances might make us wish we’d patched up our differences.
The truth is, there are times that we need one another. When Jesus taught us to love one another as he loved us, it wasn’t just for the feel-good factor. Of course it would be a demonstration of how discipleship to a loving God works in practice. But it was also good for them. God didn’t lay down laws just to see if we could obey them, but because they were good for us! We need to love one another; and we need each other. Getting our relationships with others right is not an option. Now, who do I need to forgive?