Thesis: Forgiveness is the creation of a new start.
1. If anybody ever had a right to hold a grudge--it was probably Joseph!
a. You know the story (Gen. 37-50).
1) Most favored of Jacob's 12 sons (special coat).
2) Brothers hated him because of it (tattletale, dreams).
3) Brothers plot to kill him; sell into slavery; forget him.
b. Meanwhile, down in Egypt: God was with Joseph!
c. Joseph story reaches its climax when Joseph convinces his brothers that he has really forgiven them. < read Gen. 50:15-21 >
2. One of the hardest things you or I will ever do is to forgive someone.
a. Often we make it more difficult than it is with false ideas:
1) To forgive means we have to forget.
2) To forgive means we excuse a wrong-doing.
3) To forgive means things have to go back to the way they were.
b. Forgiveness is simply making a new start.
1) Illust. "The miracle of forgiving is the creation of a new beginning. It does not always take away the hurt. It does not deny the past injury. It merely refuses to let them stand in the way of a new start" (Lewis B. Smedes).
2) Forgiveness is hard. It is not easy. One of the hardest things we will ever have to do is to forgive somebody.
I. WHAT FORGIVENESS IS NOT.
A. Forgiveness is not forgetting.
1. POPULAR VIEW: I haven't forgiven if I can still remember.
a. Illust. Several years ago at another congregation a middle-aged Christian woman approached me & said she was having trouble forgiving her husband for something. "Why?" I asked. Could not forget what he had done. Sexually unfaithful to her.
b. Only God can "forgive and forget!" (Ps. 103:8-12)
2. Do you suppose Joseph could forget what had been done to him?
a. Instead of forgetting, he reminds them!
b. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good."
3. If we can forget a hurt or pain, it does not call for forgiveness.
B. Forgiveness does not excuse a wrong.
1. Sometimes we mistake forgiveness for excusing.
a. Feel that to forgive is to say they're not responsible.
b. Feel that to forgive is to detract from wrong-ness of act.
c. Illust. That is why there are some in the Jewish community maintain that we must never forgive the Germans for the Holocaust. To forgive them would be to excuse their deed; detract from the heinousness of the holocaust.
2. Forgiveness is just the opposite of excusing!
a. We excuse folks when we know they are not to blame:
1) Waiter--trips and spills something on table.
2) Blind Person--knocking over an antique vase.
b. We forgive only when we can hold people responsible:
1) A husband/wife who cheats on us.
2) A friend who talks behind our back.
3) A parent who abused us when we were a child.
c. Illust. Someone has put it this way: "Forgiving is tough. Excusing is easy. What a mistake it is to confuse forgiving with being mushy, soft, gutless, and oh so understanding. Before we forgive, we stiffen our spine and we hold a person accountable. And only then, in tough-minded judgment, can we do the outrageously impossible thing: we can forgive" (Smedes, Forgive & Forget, p. 44).