Which is more difficult to forgive or to forget? How about doing something good for the one who offended you even when you really do not feel like forgiving? Which comes first forgiveness or act of kindness? Or is it about forgetting? I forget, then I forgive then I show kindness? It’s not that simple…
Let’s see what Joseph did.
Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery that caused him 13 years of hard life and challenges. (See Genesis 45)
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!”
After their father, Jacob died, the brothers were worried that Joseph would take revenge and harm them. (Implication: the extent of guilt these brothers had for what they did to Joseph – they could not get over it even after 17 years of living in Egypt having moved there with their father because Joseph forgave them and asked them to go live in Egypt during the famine.)
16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”
Hiding behind their father… these brothers thought that Joseph forgave them on account of their father – because Joseph didn’t want to cause his father any more grief. The brothers didn’t trust Joseph’s forgiveness – they thought Joseph would surely avenge the sufferings they caused him. But how did Joseph respond?
17b And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 21 So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
1) He cried. He seemed to be constantly crying every time he’s confronted with his brothers’ fear of his possible retaliation. v. 17b
2) He comforted them. v. 21 How? Do not be afraid… don’t worry, I will not harm you. I will even provide for you and even for your children and grandchildren.
He was really kind – in word and in deed. Really a level up in forgiveness – not passive but active forgiveness.
Bottom line: How did he do that? How could he be so kind to the people who caused him so much suffering and pain?
Again the Godly perspectives…
1) Am I in God’s place? v. 19 Joseph knew his place. He is not God. It is not up to him to punish the wrong.
2) As for you, you meant evil against me, BUT GOD meant it for good… v. 20
Joseph looked backward then forward. He acknowledged that his brothers meant to harm him because of envy. Yet he saw how God worked to bring salvation for his family – how God helped him in the journey to save many lives during the famine.
To forgive and not forget but to even show kindness… this is the ultimate Godly perspective. Mission impossible?
Let me share my story. It is easier said than done. I am only human. I get hurt, angry and disappointed when I am wronged. I need to acknowledge and express all these emotions. It is not good and not realistic to say I forgive and sweep it under the rag. But while I should be aware of how I feel, while I need to share the load with someone I trust and someone who will comfort and encourage me, I need to refrain from rehearsing and nursing the wrong, the pain.
I remember Rev. Wesley Shao preached: Do not curse. Do not rehearse. Do not nurse. Indeed forgiving starts with these 3 basic steps. I need to let go and not dwell on the wrong, not talk about it again and again how wrong he/she was, to nurse it – how wronged I was.
Forgiveness is more than just passively doing nothing – no cursing, no rehearsing and no nursing, no revenge. It is more importantly about actively doing something – to pray for my ‘enemy,’ to be kind to the one who hurt me, it takes lots of practice.
My childish sinful nature tells me to give hubby the silent treatment, go on strike and not cook or let him go hungry (and let him feel my absence -do nothing). Proverbs 25:21 says If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. v. 22 continues: In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head (so by doing something good, I get my revenge) and the Lord will reward you. And God gives me a prize too. What is it? I liberate myself from bondage of anger and bitterness.
Joseph was able to forgive because he took on the lens of the godly perspective. He knew that God put him there for a purpose: to save lives.
I learned and am still learning that each time I forgive, I am growing in both spiritual and emotional maturity. I practice how it is to forgive 70×7 – what it means to forgive again and again. It does not mean that I condone the wrong done to me. I acknowledge the offense but I make a choice to let go. It also does not mean that I let myself be hurt again. I tell the person the wrong done and how it affected me.
God has a purpose for me -to learn and live lessons on forgiveness. Through each experience, I must remember that God forgave me of many sins I made. As I am forgiven, so should I forgive. I need to be kind and compassionate as Jesus was to those who betrayed him, denied him and crucified him on the cross. He washed their feet. He prayed for them. He fed them heavenly food.
I can go on and on talking about forgiving. It is no use till I put them into action. Practice makes perfect. A forgiving spirit is something I need to learn everyday till Jesus returns or He takes me home. So help me God. Amen.