Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Releasing Forgiveness as God Intended

The story of Joseph and the scene of forgiving his brothers is familiar. This episode conveys redemption, healing, and a firm decision of forgiveness. In Genesis 45:1-15, the story unfolded and seemed unreal. However, it became the occasion where God set up shocking everyone and having disbelief in the story.

Nowhere in this chapter is the sin of his brothers minimized. Joseph identified the treatment they had given him as sinful, yet his words were filled with hope and encouragement. Verses 5-8 assure these men that their sin had not thwarted the purposes of God. “You sold me,” Joseph said, “but God sent me” (verse 5). Their purpose was to destroy, but God’s was to save.” 

Somebody said, “Reconciliation heals the soul. The joy of rebuilding broken relationships and hearts. If it’s healthy for your growth, forgive and love.”

The lingering question many asked: “Was Joseph in Egypt because of the sin of his brothers or because of the good plan of God?” In effect, they are both true. If this is the case, forgiveness made sense in both aspects because of what they represent. We forgive because people sin and need it. And most importantly, seeing them from God’s perspective, as the apostle Paul declared, “All things work together for good…” 

In releasing forgiveness, Joseph summarized how forgiveness becomes possible when understood from God’s perspective. In releasing forgiveness, Joseph realized that God ruled his life, not good or evil individuals, not circumstances or fate. Because God was in control, God made sure all things worked together for the best of everyone involved.

The story of Joseph is a prophetic picture of what Jesus fulfilled at the cross of Calvary when He prayed, “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice” (Luke 23:34 NLT). Enduring Word Commentary explained the rationale of this prayer:

In this Jesus fulfilled His own command to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good for those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:44). Jesus recognized the blindness of His enemies in His prayer. However, this prayer did not excuse the guilt of those who put Jesus on the cross. Instead, Jesus set His enemies in the best possible light in His prayer to the Father.”

Because Jesus forgave His enemies, He provided the platform to His genuine disciples on how forgiveness becomes a way of behaving towards people who wronged us. In releasing this forgiveness, Jesus paved the way for future disciples that it is impossible to live for Jesus without doing what He did. Thus, Stephen, the first martyr and disciple of Jesus, imitated this attitude during his stoning (Luke 7:60). 

Gary Smalley provided a picture of how forgiveness works as Jesus intended:

Forgiveness involves pardon. Basically, it is like erasing offenses toward us from a marking board. We immediately wash their offenses away like a wave washing away a message in the sand. Second, forgiveness involves caring for the offending person because most people who offend us have something in their own heart that needs healing. When we forgive others, they are released from our anger and we are healed by God.”

C. S. Lewis wonderfully summarized what forgiveness really means for the followers of Jesus: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Let’s talk again!