Forgiveness of the "Black Sheep"

Author: Pastor Mike Gutzler

For the past couple of weeks now, we have been discussing the importance of our faith family ancestors. These early generations from so long ago are formative to our own faith lives today. These are the people who set the foundation of faith with our God, and their stories still speak meaningfully to our lives today – just like our grandparents and great grandparents. But, we could not transition into our next theme for the year together without discussing the dynamics of the family black sheep.

Every family has at least one black sheep. A black sheep is the family member that seems to be getting into trouble, stirring the family pot at gatherings, or just does not seem to fit in with everyone else. Maybe you are the family black sheep, or someone comes to mind for you. In today’s story, Jacob is the black sheep of his family.

Jacob was causing trouble even before he was born. When his mother Rebecca was pregnant with him and his twin brother Esau, she asked God why she was having so much trouble and pain. God replied saying her twin sons were fighting in her womb.

The relationship does not improve between the brothers. On the day of their birth, Jacob would not let go of Esau’s foot as they both came into the world. Jacob then tries to get a starving Esau to trade his birthright for a bowl of stew. And finally, when their father is on his deathbed, Jacob dresses up as Esau and does steal his brother’s birthright. We pick up the story right when God has asked Jacob to return to his brother Esau, and Jacob is understandable scared for his life.

It is at this very moment Jacob is met by a stranger and famously wrestles with him through the night. Jacob will not let the stranger go until he gets a blessing. Jacob does get the blessing as requested and a new name: Israel.

The significance of the story this week is the focus on God’s ability to provide love, grace and forgiveness, even to the black sheep of the family. For many who have caused great harm or pain to others, especially family members, the opportunity to reconcile or to atone for their mistakes can be incredibly powerful. God offers that chance here, and when Jacob meets Esau, forgiveness is offered and healing happens.

We see this same work, forgiveness, and grace in life of Jesus. What happened with our faith family of the ancient past is made real and eternal in Christ forever.

Today we get to pick up where Jesus left off. Today we get to consider our own family dynamics and consider the ways God may be calling us to act as agents of love, grace and forgiveness with our family and friends. Who is the person that comes to mind for you?