First, the best perspective…
And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:32
NOTE: Today’s blog entry is part two of a four part series on the
topic of forgiveness. Part one (Asking Forgiveness) was posted last Thursday, January 29. Part three (Church Discipline) will be posted Thursday, February 5, and part four (God’s Forgiveness) is planned for Monday, February 9.
Recently I had a unique and rather encouraging experience. I had occasion to meet briefly with a friend and colleague from some time ago and this person asked to speak with me privately. When we were alone, this person earnestly sought my forgiveness for an offense that happened more than ten years ago. I listened to the carefully worded statement, which clearly had been on his mind for quite some time. The words were genuine, from the heart, and with a few tears.
When he concluded his thoughts, it was my turn to offer a response. The words came easily as I granted the forgiveness he sought. I also added that I had forgiven him years ago. There were a few additional words spoken in the spirit of encouragement and then we embraced in a spirit of grace, acceptance, and humility. Later, we parted with a restored relationship that will continue to grow in the days ahead.
Forgiveness: What an important concept. What a tremendous gift that we can give to another person, perhaps a person who carries a heavy burden, even a load of great despair! What a tremendous gift that we can also give to ourselves, a gift that releases bitterness and anger, allowing peace and joy to return.
A few years ago, I briefly worked as the executive director of a counseling agency. I did not serve as one of the counselors, but I quickly came to appreciate the work that our counseling staff accomplished in the lives of hurting people. One of the greatest struggles for many of the clients we served was being willing to forgive others. Sometimes people even harbor deep resentment toward those who are no longer alive. This can torment a person, leading to further difficulties including depression, various health difficulties, and often wreaks further destruction in their lives. The term ‘bitterness’ actually describes one who harbors resentment and is unwilling or unable to forgive one or more persons.
In the Bible, we see that God is very concerned with the grace of forgiveness. How you and I handle this grace in our daily lives is important to the One who models the concept in such a perfect way!
Let’s take a look at a biblical example which clearly depicts the grace of forgiveness in action…
In Genesis chapter 45, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, none
of whom recognized him until that very moment. You know the story how that years before, the brothers had sold Joseph into slavery and were happy to be rid of him. If anyone had reason to be bitter, it was Joseph, but instead of taking a clear opportunity for revenge while he was in a position of great advantage, Scripture recounts the words of the long lost brother: “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.” Was this not forgiveness in action? What an example for us today!
However, the goal is not simply forgiveness (as important as that is), but also restoration and the story of Joseph and his brothers shows this concept in action. Forgiveness had been granted, but the Bible goes on to describe how the family relationships were restored and quickly rebuilt. The key was the attitude of Joseph who was willing
to put aside any lingering anger and bitterness. Without restoration, the process is incomplete. If the one seeking forgiveness comes in a spirit of humility to request forgiveness, then it would be wrong to send them away without complete forgiveness and restoration.
Ah dear friend! Is there someone you need to forgive for some past offense, whether or not the person has asked for forgiveness? Or is there a broken relationship in your life or some issue between you and someone else that needs to be be resolved? Why not take the steps required to take care of the difficulty – and do it today.