Summary: Forgiveness has eternal consequences. Perhaps that is why Jesus included it in his model prayer saying we are forgiven only when we forgive. Satan does not have to get us with every sin in the bible. All he needs is to get us with one.
I want to start with something funny, so listen to this.
One Sunday a Preacher’s message was about forgiveness. Hoping to have made an impact, towards the end of the sermon, he asked his congregation, “How many of you have been able to forgive those who offended you”?
About half held up their hands. Knowing he had more work to do, he preached another 20 minutes and asked again. This time all raised their hands except one elderly lady seated at the back. “Mrs. Jones?” inquired the preacher, “Are you not willing to forgive your enemies?”
“I am ninety three years old now and don’t have a single one” she said. “Wow that is very unusual” said the Preacher and asked if she wouldn’t mind coming before the congregation to share her testimony of how the Lord helped her to forgive. Mrs Jones agreed and hobbled slowly down the aisle, turned around, faced the congregation and said “It’s simple – I outlived all the old hags.”
Forgiveness is not about outliving someone else and I know we can do better than that at St. Paul’s. Hopefully, this morning we will learn from Joseph how to forgive. There is too much pain and brokenness in many families today which has motivated me to talk a little this morning about what it means to forgive.
Perhaps you are saying “Reggie, that’s me; I have harbored bitterness in my heart for too long and find it so hard to forgive.” Friend, forgiveness is not easy but if the one who forgave you and me is in your heart and mine, it should come naturally.
I believe Satan has a plan to divide and conquer and so long as we harbor bitterness and anger against one another, we are doing exactly what he wants us to do. The devil does not have to get you with every sin in the bible; all he needs is to get you with one – forgiveness is bigger than most of us think; perhaps it is reason why Jesus said we will be forgiven only when we forgive others their trespasses.
In other words, you and I can do everything right but still remain unforgiven by God because we have refused to forgive. Very quickly, I want to share with you 5 truths about forgiveness that we can learn from the life of Joseph. First of all, we must:
1.Give ourselves time but be the Initiator:
Wounds take time to heal. If it takes you a while, that’s OK but don’t stay there forever. I say this respectfully, but if you have sat on it for years, it’s time to get over it. Remember, Joseph met with his brothers after 20 years; it was a long time; but time helped heal deep wounds. Time also helps us reflect on some of the things we might have blown out of proportion. It helps us realize that some things in life are not really worth fighting for.
Our human nature wants us to have the other person come begging to us first. Unfortunately, that may never happen. We have to be like Joseph. He was a peace maker. He wasn’t concerned about his brothers’ attitude towards him; but instead, he took the initiative to forgive. Likewise my friends, I am suggesting that you be the first to make the call, give a hug or write a note. When you reach out to the other, you are doing exactly what the Lord did for you. Next, it is important to,
2. Specify the problem and talk about it:
Forgiveness is not about overlooking the problem or evading the issue. Infact, Joseph reminded his brothers about their act when he said in vs. 4 “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt.” He did not try to minimize or hide the truth but he also did not venture into the blame game. He said to them, this is what separated us but I am willing to forgive you and start all over again. Friends, be careful to do this in a non judgmental way because it serves no good purpose to rehash differences just to make ourselves look good or right. Next,
3. Talk about your relationship with each other:
As yourself what brought you together in the first place. Perhaps you went to the same school; worked at the same office or you were a blood relative. Oftentimes our fiercest disagreements are within our own family. It might be a brother or a sister - it might be a son or a daughter - it does not matter, we are still family. We are also one big family in the Lord. Joseph not only identified himself as the brother but also asked “Is my father still alive?” showing that family relationships are important. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says: