“ His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” – Genesis 50:18-21.
Do you remember white out correction fluid? It is the magical liquid that covers over your errors, your typos, your unfortunate slip-ups. You brush on the liquid and start all over again–hopefully this time with no unfortunate slip-ups. It was used when typewriters were used so you can correct a mistake without typing the whole document over again. Forgiveness is much like that. It does not eliminate the hurts or pain, but it does cover them over in a way that they never really happened.
All this week we have been looking at the subject of forgiveness. The bottom line is forgiveness is a promise. That’s really what it is. It’s a promise. It’s a promise never to take revenge. It is the opposite of a refusal to forgive, which is a promise to get back at the person who wronged or hurt us.
If you want a simple definition then of forgiveness, think of it as a promise never to take revenge. It is a statement of obedience to God that affirms, “I hold no anger, I hold no hatred, I hold no bitterness against you. I won’t ever bring it up to you, I won’t ever bring it up to anybody else, I won’t ever bring it up to myself.” That’s forgiveness.
It will take an act of love. Because forgiveness is the most Christ-like act a Christian can do.
Never are you more like God or Christ than when you forgive, because that is what Christ does. The personification of forgiveness is when Jesus looked at His crucifiers and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)
A prime example of forgiveness is the story of Joseph. When presented with an opportunity to exact vengeance on his brothers, Joseph chose, instead, to point them to the overarching plan that God has for His glory: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 60:20)
Joseph understood that God’s plan was bigger than his revenge. Joseph served a God that enabled him to love those who had sinned against him. Joseph was able to do this, not because they were inherently deserving or because he was inherently righteous. He was able to forgive because he understood that God’s providential hand had guided him to this point, and that God’s plan was bigger than his hurt, just as it had been bigger than the jealousy that lead to that pain.
We serve the same God. We serve a God who enables us to love and forgive others, not of our own power, but from God’s forgiveness that has radically changed our view of the world. Because Jesus loves, we love. Because He forgave, we forgive.
During this Christmas season I hope you will learn to forgive those around you. It is one of the best Christmas presents you can give yourself.
- Does Christmas change the idea of what forgiveness means for you?
- What is most important to you in your life and how can forgiving help?
- What do you dislike about the idea of forgiving? What do you like about it?
- What is reconciliation, and how is it different from the act of forgiving?
- Why do you think forgiveness takes courage?