There is an amazing story in the middle of the book of Genesis that is often overlooked. Jacob and Esau are twins, but after some pretty rash, selfish, and deceitful actions that put Jacob on top and leave Esau with nothing, they become bitter enemies. Jacob flees for his life and they keep their distance for many years. Eventually though, Jacob wants to come home and knows he will have to meet his twin once again. Not knowing where they stand after so long, Jacob is very cautious and sends messages to prepare Esau of his coming as well as lavish gifts to encourage harmony. The amazing part comes when they finally come face to face and Jacob says to Esau, “For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me.” (Genesis 33:10, ESV). Jacob sees “the face of God” in Esau, the feared brother who planned to kill him, who made him live far from home for many years, who has wealth and power and an army of men with him! This is quite the statement—far from what most of us would imagine anyone would say to their enemy in even the kindest of circumstances.
While I love the beauty of this redemption story, I also find it incredibly challenging. For how many of us have had to face an enemy as great as someone who tried to kill us? And yet how difficult it is for us to respond as Jacob did, to forgive and recognize the value in our “enemies” who have hurt us in much smaller ways. Jacob seems to have an awareness we are missing regarding how we see and respond to other people, enemies or not.
When we look at people, whether strangers or familiar faces, we can’t see their inner being and so our human instinct is to make imperfect assumptions about the correctness of their actions, our compatibility, what we like and don’t like in them, etc. This often leads to less than ideal interactions. Only God knows our hearts fully, deceitful and sick as they are (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV), and still he treats us with perfect goodness. While we are quick to condemn, judge, fear, or brush off mistake-ridden people, God chose to make amends with us while we were still living in rebellion to his will.
”For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10, ESV)
In the glory and grace of God’s plan, he made a way for our eyes to be opened to the truth. When we finally see Jesus as Lord and accept his righteousness as our righteousness, our access and relationship with God can be restored. Then, God’s Spirit comes to dwell in us and we begin to be transformed into his likeness. Our desire to be like our Papa grows and only then will we start to see people as he sees them and love people as he loves them…all of them. You see, Jacob wasn’t able to say what he did to Esau by some personal epiphany or years of training in enemy love. No! The night before Jacob was reunited with Esau, he had a life-changing experience when he wrestled with God and saw his face (Genesis 32:31). Only when we come to know the face of God, in the person of Jesus, are we then aware of His face in people.
“[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15, ESV)
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV)
We are all God’s image-bearers: friends, enemies, close family, and those wildly different from us. When we look at another’s face, no matter their origins, beliefs, looks, or actions, our thoughts should say, “made in the image of God”. And when people look at us, who are redeemed members of God’s family, they should see reflections of Him.
People aren’t the enemy. All people are God’s creation whom he specially made in his image. All people are God’s children whom he loves so much that he sent his only Son to die for. God desires all people to come to repentance and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ so that he can spend eternity with them . All people have value and are redeemable. All people are our neighbors whom we are called to love. (See Genesis 1:27, John 3:16, I Timothy 2:4, Ephesians 2:8-9, Matthew 5:44-45, ESV). People aren’t the enemy, so stop fighting those who bear the image of God and start loving them. Save your battle efforts for the real enemy.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV)