Devotionals, Family, Forgiveness, Issue 39

Forgiving Your Family

Forgiving Your Family

I didn’t ask to be born first. It’s not fair that my parents expected me to be responsible for my younger siblings, and scolded me harshly whenever something bad happened to them. It wasn’t even my fault,” a friend shared when we were having a heart-to-heart talk. Even though those days of being scolded were a long time ago, recalling those moments brought fresh pain and hurt. “Don’t I matter to them? I’m their child too.” my friend wondered.

Those thoughts felt familiar. Even though I grew up in a Christian home, there have been times when I felt deeply hurt by family members because of unkept promises, insensitive statements, and unnecessary comparisons of me with how well other kids behaved.

No family is perfect. Even the families in the Bible didn’t get it right. In one particular family, the favouritism shown by the parents led to deep-rooted hurts which eventually tore a pair of twin brothers apart for years.

Isaac and Rebekah had become parents to Esau and Jacob. From Scripture, we learn that as the twin boys grew up, with the elder brother Esau becoming a skilful hunter and the younger brother Jacob being the quieter one who liked to stay at home, “Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Gen 25:28 NIV).

Years later, when Isaac was old and wanted to give the unique blessing for the firstborn to Esau, Rebekah and Jacob worked together to trick Isaac into giving the blessing to Jacob instead. This made Esau so angry that he wanted to kill Jacob, but Rebekah helped Jacob to run away from home and escape. (For details on what happened, see Genesis 27.)

With such deep hurts from jealousy, deceit, betrayal and threatened violence, what hope is there for reconciliation between husband and wife, parent and child, and siblings? We can look to the God who created families and showed us what forgiveness looked like. Isaac’s family had been called to honour God and be part of the covenant where “all peoples on earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3 NIV). Despite their failings, God persisted with this broken family for His redemptive purpose. After over 20 years of estrangement, Jacob and Esau reconciled with a teary embrace (Gen 33). And out of this family line, many generations later, came God’s own Son, Jesus.

This same God then shows His love as our Heavenly Father, by forgiving us of our sins while we were still His enemies, and reconciling with us through Christ (Rom 5:8–10). It is because we have received such a precious gift of forgiveness and reconciliation that we are to extend it to others. Paul’s message to the Ephesian church rings true today, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32 ESV).

The family you and I have may not be perfect. We may expect our family to love and protect us, to always be there for us and not let us down. Yet no matter how hard our parents, siblings, or even ourselves try to do so, we won’t be able to in our own strength. In every family, there will be days of laughter and days of sadness. During this Covid-19 pandemic, with strict measures so that we “stay home”, stress levels may reach breaking point, with family members venting their frustrations on one another. Yet it is through the family that God works. We learn to love each other. We learn to forgive in times of hurt and pain. And with that we learn the heart of our Heavenly Father who forgave us first.

PRAYER

Dear God, having received Your gift of forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, help me forgive family members who have hurt me. Even through the pain, may You bring about healing and reconciliation in Your perfect ways. Amen.

REFLECTION TIME!

1. How did you feel when someone forgave you? To what extent has that influenced the way you treat others who have hurt you?
2. Is there a strained relationship in your family? What can you do to help bring reconciliation?

DELVE DEEPER

Read and reflect on these passages on “forgiveness”:
o Genesis 50:15–21
o Psalm 103:1–14
o Matthew 18:21–35

HANDLES

When reading the Bible, be careful not to pick and choose some words to focus on while ignoring the context of the passage. It’s important to keep things in perspective according to what the biblical author had intended to say to the original readers.

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