Summary: This is part of a series of messages about the life of Joseph. We are challenged to "imitate" Jesus by forgiving those who have caused emotional harm. Some thoughts come from Sermon Central - John Hamby "Dealing With Forgiveness"
In Jesus Holy Name September 21, 2008
Series: O.T. Challenges Redeemer
“Forgiveness: It’s A God Thing! Pass It On”
Our series of messages through the book of Genesis remind us of real life events. We have followed the life of Joseph. He grew up in a dysfunctional family, six brothers, several sisters, several step mothers all wanting the love and acceptance of Jacob, their husband and father. Jacob’s bad habit of showing favoritism resulted in jealousy. The brothers of Joseph devised a scheme to sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt, and convince their father that Joseph was dead.
At the age of 17 he found himself sold as a slave to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s prison. In the course of time, we find that Joseph had risen to a position of responsibility in Potiphar’s house. God blessed his management. At the age of 27 Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of attempted sexual assault. Joseph was thrown into prison. He was unjustly imprisoned. It would have been easy to give into despair.
He was forgotten, left in prison. Until Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret. The cupbearer to the Pharaoh suddenly remembered a fellow prisoner who could interpret dreams. God gave Joseph the answer and Joseph was elevated to the position of Prime Minister. Joseph was 30 years old.
Eleven years go bye. A severe famine covers all of Egypt and Canaan. His backstabbing brothers came to Egypt and find themselves kneeling before Joseph wanting to buy grain. (read Genesis 42:1-9)
What would you do if you were Joseph? Are you the kind of person who holds a grudge? Do you; look for an opportunity for “pay back”? It is never easy to forget hurts that scar our souls and change our lives. Some say that the best cure for forgetting unjust hurts is a good case of Alzheimer’s.
There is another option. Imitate God. Offer Forgiveness.
In our gospel lesson last week Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive those who offend us, causing emotional harm, or hurt feelings. Jesus said, 70 X 7. Robert Hoyer in his book reflects upon this command of Jesus when he writes: “The primary act of faith is forgiving. It is the characteristic act of God, the Father of Jesus Christ. If we follow him in faith it is the first thing we do in our following. It is the one thing different we do in faith which we would not do if we had no faith. It is what we start with if we want to put meaning and purpose back into our lives.” Forgiving is an act of faith.
Simon Wiesenthal lost 89 relatives in Hitler’s death camps. He has devoted his life to fining Nazi criminals and bringing them to justice. He is often asked when he will give up. After all, he is hunting down men in their 70’s and 80’s for crimes committed half a century ago.
Wiesenthal answered by writing a book. The book begins with a true experience he had while he himself was a concentration camp prisoner. One day he was yanked out of a work detail and taken up a back stairway to a dark hospital room. A nurse led him into the room, and then left him alone with a figure wrapped in white, lying on a bed. The figure was a badly wounded German soldier, whose entire face was covered with bandages. His name was Karl.
With a trembling voice, the German made a kind of confession to Wiesenthal. He told how he had been brought up in a Nazi family, the fighting he had experienced on the Russian front and the brutal measures his S.S. unit had taken against Jews. And then he told of a terrible atrocity.
All the Jews in a town were herded into a wooden building that was then set on fire. Karl had taken an active part in the crime. Several times Wiesenthal tried to leave the room, but each time the ghost-like figure would reach out and beg him to stay. Finally, after 2 hours, Karl told Wiesenthal why he had been summoned.
The soldier had asked a nurse if any Jews still existed. If so, he wanted one brought to his room so he could clear his conscience. He then asked Wiesenthal…”I am left here with my guilt. I do not know who you are, I know only that you are a Jew and this is enough. I know that what I am asking is almost too much for you. But without your answer I cannot die in peace.” Karl asked for forgiveness for all the Jews he had killed. He asked for forgiveness, from a man who might soon die. Wiesenthal sat in silence for some time. He stared at the man’s bandaged face. At last, without saying a word, he stood up and left the room. He left the soldier in torment, unforgiven.