An amazing story of forgiveness is told in the life of Joseph which begins in Genesis 37. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and wanted him to die. However, God had a different plan, didn’t he? As Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God had a plan for Joseph, a plan to prosper him and not to harm him but to give him hope and a future. Joseph chose to put his trust in God’s plan even though the thought of his brother’s jealousy and hate must have hurt him deeply, This story unfolds to show us the importance of what forgiveness can do in a person’s heart. What Joseph’s brothers meant for harm; God used for good. When Joseph chose to forgive his brothers, it was really about the importance of being obedient to God and trusting Him for the results, wasn’t it?
How often do we find this true in our lives? God understands how important forgiveness is for us so he gave us the story of Joseph and his brothers to remind us of this very important matter. How many brothers and sisters live with unforgiveness in their lives. Forgiveness is the important attribute we can integrate into our lives to give us peace as we forgive others just as Jesus forgives us. And here is the kicker, EVEN IF they don’t forgive us. There may be a time in our lives that a brother or sister may not forgive us. But there is the good news of Jesus.
Jesus came to earth and died for us so that we can be forgiven and spend eternity with Him when we put our faith and trust in him. Our Savoir showed us the ultimate forgiveness by giving up his life for us and then left his Holy Spirit to give us the power to forgive just as Jesus did. Yet we as believers still struggle don’t, we? Even in Christ’s example asking His Father to forgive the people who were crucifying him. As he was dying on the cross in excruciating pain, he said, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do” in Mark 23:34.
Is there a person in your life that has not forgiven you, or that you have not forgiven? The pain and hurt of bitterness and anger will eat away at our souls, harden our hearts, and keep us from experiencing an abundant life full of grace and love even until death.
In God’s word, he always gives us the guideline on how to put off certain thoughts and behaviors and what thoughts we need to replace them with to change and soften our hearts. It’s so clear in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. God does not want us to live with a hardened heart. As believers, Paul reminds us that we need to put off our old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of our minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. There are many important instructions for us in Ephesians that are meant to help us put off the old thought processes to make room for the new ones. It is summed up so beautifully in 4:31- 5:2. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as Christ God Forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering to God.”
We have these wonderful instructions but when the rubber meets the road it’s not that easy is it, especially when a brother or sister continues to hurt us.
The good news is that Jesus addresses just this thing with Peter and the disciples. He never leaves us without an answer. In Matthew 18:21 Peter asked Jesus “Lord how many times shall I forgive my brothers when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Don’t you just love Peter thinking seven times is enough? I think we can all have a bit of Peter in us when it gets harder and harder to forgive someone who hurts us more than 7 times. Then Jesus answers Peter “I tell you not seven times, but seventy times seven.” So grateful that Jesus didn’t stop forgiving me at seven. I would be in big trouble.
Jesus didn’t limit forgiveness to 490 times, it was a number to remind us that we must have forgiving hearts that do not limit the times we forgive with grace. Thank goodness the Holy Spirit has the capacity to help us offer forgiveness repeatedly. Jesus doesn’t want us to live empty bitter lives until death.
God has not left us alone in our struggles. His word offers encouragement and grace for us to hang onto EVEN IF there is no hope of reconciliation. He asks us to come to him for help when we are struggling with pain and hurt. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need”. Hebrews 4:16.
May we all find the grace and help from God, our Father, who comforts and forgives us. This gives us the strength to put off all anger and bitterness forgiving one another with softened hearts. As His beloved children, we can live in joy, peace, and love.