By: Gary L. Rodgers
Genesis 50:15 And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us (avenge himself upon us) all the evil which we did unto him.
17 So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.
In the above verses we find the continuing story of a man named Joseph, whom as we know was sold into slavery by his brothers who hated Joseph for being the highly favored one above all that were in his father’s house. But now, Joseph was Governor over all of Egypt, answering to no one other than Pharaoh himself. Joseph’s father Jacob has died and now Joseph’s brothers are afraid that Joseph will take his revenge out on them for the terrible injustice that they committed against him. (verse 15) Take notice what it shows in verses 17 & 21 about the character of Joseph. Joseph was a tenderhearted man who showed love, mercy and forgiveness to his brothers. Joseph saw what happened in his life as the perfect plan of God to save the nation of Israel from starvation. (verse 20)
When you are mistreated by others, do you look at the possibility of it being the hand of providence working in your life toward a greater cause? I wonder how often some of us may have possibly missed out on some real future blessings because we had taken our eyes off of the Lord, and looked at what happened to us as a terrible injustice instead of forgiving and handing it all over to the Lord? I truly wonder!
Do you find it easy to forgive? What does it mean to forgive and how would you define forgiveness?
A FEW DEFINITIONS
1. to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)
2. the excusing or release of an offense without demanding a penalty
3. an unconditional full pardon
When someone asks you to forgive them how quickly are you able to do that? How many of us could at times enjoy being like Peter and chopping off a person’s ear when we get upset? (John 18:10) Is this the right way to approach any situation, particularly where forgiveness needs to be involved? If we have been offended we need to possess an attitude of forgiveness toward that person. It’s not always easy but it is necessary. Forgiveness does not only release the offender, it also releases the offended.
Name some of the adverse affects that we experience when we don’t forgive:
1) Anger (Ephesians 4:26)
2) Bitterness (Ephesians 4:31)
3) Hatred (Psalm 109:3)
4) Physical sickness – The Lord’s Supper – 1 Corinthians 11:27- 30 (if we have an unforgiving spirit we need to take that to the Lord and seek His forgiveness and healing)
5) Spiritual emptiness and separation from God – Isaiah 59:2 (Jesus – My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me. Matthew 27:46)
6) Unrest – exhaustion and fear – Medical science links heart attacks, anxiety and depression to a person not having a forgiving spirit.
It is impossible for us to go through this life without having our feelings hurt. But what we do with that hurt and how we handle the situation will demonstrate to others the makeup of our character. Maybe we don’t always handle it right on our own, but with God’s help we can better our batting average.
Forgiveness is the first step in restoring fellowship; which builds relationships to new levels of love for the other person. Forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven it is granted as an act of love, mercy and grace toward the other person; that is what Christ did for us.
How we act toward someone who has wronged us does not mean that we should put ourselves back into a harmful situation to allow them to continually take advantage of us with their wrong behavior.
If we do not forget an infraction committed against us does that mean that we have not really forgiven? I don’t believe so; I believe that we need to use some sound wisdom by walking cautiously when we find ourselves back on similar paths where we had been abused by others before.
I believe that we are taught in scripture that we are not to render evil for evil, (1 Thessalonians 5:15) but rather we are to avoid confrontations by turning the other cheek as a sign of being passive to acts of violence, but does that mean that we are to be someone’s door mat because we possess a spirit of forgiveness? I believe that we need to be cautious with others that deal with us with contempt. (Matt 5:44) We need to give place to the Lord to allow Him to avenge us and not we ourselves. (Romans 12:17-19)
What does God’s word say about forgiveness?
In Matthew 18:21 and 22 we find these words.
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
What if I don’t feel like forgiving others what should I do?
There are times when we may not feel like forgiving others, but as an essential part of our spiritual growth and advancement we need to, for in so doing we heap coals of fire upon the head of our enemy. Proverbs 25:22 and Romans 12:20.
An unforgiving spirit will cause one to have severe stomach problems. Let’s be like one of the Pastor’s who was sitting next to another Pastor in a church and listening to a message from the platform about how Christians should not get ulcers. So he jabbed the other Pastor with his elbow and said “We don’t get ulcers brother, we give them!” Let’s be like that, let’s not get ulcers, instead let’s give them with kindness.
We need to have positive thoughts of forgiveness if we are to be set free from these shackles of sin. If you have someone that you are struggling with to forgive, take some time to sit and dwell on what hell would be like for them. Picture them in torment, suffering for eternity, all alone, screaming in pain and anguish beyond any measure that any of us have ever felt. Hear their cries for help and their pleading to be delivered from those eternal fires. What if your spirit of not forgiving them was the very cause for them to spend an eternity in such an awful place? What if you were the deciding factor in their final resting place, how would you vote?
Then think about Christ as He hung on the cross, suspended between Heaven and earth. All the sins of the world on Him; yours, mine and even those that have wronged you and caused a heart of bitterness to linger within you! He could have called ten thousand angels (Matthew 26:53) to destroy all of mankind and release Him from the pain and suffering that He experienced for you and me. You say “well I wasn’t there I didn’t nail Him to any cross.” Physically you may not have been there, but your sins and mine were all there just the same.
When He looked down from the cross and said “Father forgive them,” do you suppose that He was only speaking of those that were in His presence that day? No! He also saw your face and mine! He saw what would happen to us had He not gone to the cross in our stead paying the full penalty for our sins. He saw the pain and eternal anguish that you and I would experience had He come down off of the cross (Matthew 27:42) and not gone through with being our Redeemer. FORGIVENESS! Such a big word that carries a huge weight with it.
What can I do to help others that are struggling with forgiveness?
People who have experienced abuse, trauma, or loss need time to sort things out and allow God to bring them to the place of forgiveness in His time. Forgiveness by us does not always happen immediately, but it will happen in time if we give it over to God. Jesus act of immediate forgiveness for salvation demonstrates His perfect mercy, grace and redemption. There are things we can do to help those struggling with forgiveness toward others. We need to listen to them and be gentle with them, giving place to the Spirit of God to carry them through the steps of possessing a spirit of forgiveness. We need to pray with them and encourage them through scripture. They need to know that yes! They were wronged, but that the pains of the past will continue to hurt until they forgive and allow God to release their heart and mind. He will set the record straight; He will handle the matter His way in His own time.
Personal Testimony – On October 30, 1978 I put my complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ to forgive me and save me from my sin. What a blessed moment that was when I felt the weight of that guilt being lifted from my shoulders. When we forgive others there is a weight that we lift from their shoulders. Did I deserve to receive the penalty that God has in store for the sins that we commit? Of course I did. But the one thing that helped me to be released that day from such a terrible penalty was the love of a Savior who had every right to condemn me, yet at Calvary he forgave me. How can I thank Him for releasing me from such a terrible burden? I can do it by loving and forgiving those who have caused an offense against me.
A STORY OF FORGIVENESS
I recall that shortly after having gotten saved a group of people from Liberty University visited our church and put on a skit about five missionary men who were killed by a group of Waodani tribesman in the jungles of Ecuador in 1956. One of the wives, Elizabeth Elliott, Wife of Jim Elliot and Rachel Saint a sister to Nate Saint eventually won these tribesmen over to Jesus Christ. The story and the play were a real testimony to what God will do in our lives through our forgiveness of others, but part of the blessing that day came when the middle aged bus driver for the group gave his testimony. This man told us how much he had loved his stepfather who was an enemy soldier during the second world war. As it turned out the stepfather was the very man that killed his real father by machine gun.
Forgiveness, a very powerful word for healing the heartaches in our lives.
Can you name some stories in scripture that show true forgiveness.
a) Jesus on the cross “Father forgive them” – Luke 23:34a
b) Joseph and his brothers – Genesis 50:15-21
c) Jacob and Esau – Genesis 33:1-4
d) The story of the Prodigal – Luke 15:11-32 (27-32)
e) The stoning of Stephen – Acts 7:55-60
What are some of the things that we do to get over the hurt and anger that we experience? Often times I need to have some time to cool down; like a pan on a stove when it’s hot; it needs to cool down before you can touch it.
As humans we do learn to forgive but we don’t always forget. Christ on the other hand not only forgives, He also shows that His forgiveness is so complete in that He removes our offenses away from us in such a way that He no longer remembers them.
- Psalm 103:12 God shows His mercy and totally forgives the sin in our lives.
- Isaiah 38:17 What God puts behind Him stays behind Him
- Micah 7:19 God delights in mercy and His forgiveness is perfect and complete
There is much to say on this matter of forgiveness and I hope that I have touched on it enough to stir up some food for thought.
A prayer of forgiveness
Dear gracious Heavenly Father, I come before you in prayer, seeking your direction in forgiving those that have wronged me. I ask that you would help me to release their offenses against me through the power of forgiveness. Please set me free from the shackles of anger and bitterness by helping me in this matter. In the name of your Son Jesus Christ I make this request. Amen!