Summary: What does it mean to forgive? Learn by seeing how God forgives us.
Genesis 45 Friday FORGIVE Revised
This past week we have been looking at the topic of forgiveness. I'd like to read to you one more time that section from Genesis chapter 45, where Joseph has that amazing moment of forgiving his brothers. Could you do what Joseph did? Listen again to this section…
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God... 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.
God wants you to forgive, like Joseph did. On Monday we talked about why Joseph forgave his brothers. He forgave them because, even though they had done something bad to him, he believed that God had worked their evil into something very good. When someone insults you or hurts you, you also can believe that same thing - God will take that hurt, that insult, and turn it into something good. That's one reason to forgive.
On Tuesday, you heard the mathematical reason to forgive. Since God forgives you for offending him hundreds of times every day, God wants you to forgive that person who offended you once.
On Thursday we talked about revenge. Deep down, when someone does something to you, you want to get revenge. But God says, "That's my job. I will get justice." "Do not repay anyone evil for evil," God says. We need to trust that God will take care of justice when someone hurts us or wrongs us - that's another reason that we can forgive.
There's one more thing that we have to talk about today, on the subject of forgiveness. What does it actually mean to forgive a person? If someone has hurt you or damaged your reputation, and God says "forgive that person" - what does that mean?
Does it mean that I'm saying that it's OK that it happened? You were talking about me behind my back - and that's OK? No, that's not forgiveness. Does it that I don't care if you do it again - you hurt me, you hurt my family, and I don't care if you do it again - is that what it means to forgive someone? No, not at all. When someone hurts you or offends you - that was wrong, and that person should not do it again.
So what does it mean to forgive someone? The word "forgive" in the Bible has the idea of "leaving something behind" or "letting go of something." The ideal example would be this - someone does something against you, and you confront the person. That person apologizes to you, and you let it go. You leave it behind. You forgive. The next time you see that person, you have no bad feelings or anger floating through your mind. You don't treat that person badly. It's as though it never happened. You treat that person better than what he deserves. That's "forgive." Can you do that?
In his book. Lee: The Last Years, Charles Bracelen Flood reports that after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, "Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it."
Remember, this is how God treats us. When the Bible says that God forgives us - "I will forgive your wickedness and remember your sins no more," that doesn't mean that God is saying that your sin is OK. It's not - you offended God, and that's a bad thing. And when God forgives you, he's not saying that it's OK with him if you do it again. When Jesus forgave the adulterous woman, he told her, "Go and sin no more."