Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
What is one of the first Bible stories (truths) that really made an impression on you? Maybe you were a child, or maybe you were an adult, hearing one for the first time. Was it the account of Noah fitting all those animals onto an ark? Or was it Jonah getting swallowed by the fish? Maybe it was the miracle of Jesus walking on water—or rising from the dead.
There is a beautiful story in the Bible involving a man who was wronged forgiving his brothers who had wronged him. Joseph is the man who was wronged by his brothers. They had hated him and almost killed him, and then sold him as a slave to Egyptians instead. He hadn’t seen them for years, and when he told them who he was they were terrified, because now he was in a place of power to exact his revenge. But he didn’t. Instead he hugged them and kissed them and wept over them. He told them to not be angry with themselves for what they did, because he had come to see that what happened to him was all part of God’s plan. He talked with them and fed them and gave them and their families the best part of the land of Egypt to live in. What an amazing demonstration of forgiveness! (Check out Genesis 45 if you’ve never read it—or even if you have!)
Forgiveness is a difficult gift to give to someone. While there are ultimately benefits to giving forgiveness, initially it involves tremendous sacrifice. Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever been hurt so deeply by another person that you can’t imagine moving beyond it? Have you felt the burden of knowing forgiveness is what God asks of you (Luke 17:3-4), but having no idea where to start and not really wanting to? When we forgive, we give up the right to receive repayment for the wrong someone has done to us, and that is not easy. When forgiveness seems impossible, remember this:
God gives us the motivation and the ability to forgive. He modeled it through His Son, and He empowers us through His Spirit.
We forgive because we have been forgiven. We who are the “worst” of sinners (I Timothy 1:15) are invited to consider these beautiful truths about God’s forgiveness of us:
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-12
Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:18
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. Ephesians 1:7
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:12
(Just want to make sure you caught this one. Have you ever stayed up at night thinking about sins you’ve committed in the past? God doesn’t think about them—he doesn’t even remember them!)
God’s forgiveness involved tremendous sacrifice! It involved the sacrifice of His Son. Jesus took all of our sins on Himself and took the punishment for them so that no repayment will ever be expected from us. Read His promises when you have trouble feeling forgiven yourself, and read His promises when you have trouble forgiving someone else. God promises us that His Holy Spirit uses those words to empower us to do what He asks.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25
The account of Joseph and his brothers is a beautiful story of forgiveness. We are part of a beautiful story of forgiveness too. May God fill you with love and strength as you live out that story with the people He has put in your life.
Dear God, it is amazing to me that when You look at me you don’t see my sin! Thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus that gave that to me, and help me be confident of Your forgiveness when I struggle with guilt. Help me to view the people around me with those same forgiving eyes and compassionate heart. Amen.