Forgiveness has been defined as the willingness to abandon one’s right to resentment, condemnation, and revenge toward an offender or group who acts unjustly. Dr. Marilyn Armour, a family therapist who worked with Holocaust survivors in order to find out what these survivors had done to make sense of what had happened to them, writes: “The whole idea of forgiveness is an intentional act by the victim. It’s not something that just happens.”
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that there will be no consequences. Forgiveness doesn’t mean letting an abuser continue abusive patterns. Forgiveness means, instead, that we turn our resentment and our desire for revenge over to God. If not, the anger, the bitterness, the resentment, and the hatred will make whatever that person or persons did to us even worse.
What does forgiving others do for us? Consider Matthew 18:21-35.
No question, one of the keys in learning to forgive is to understand what we have been forgiven in Christ. We have all sinned, not just against other people but against God, as well.
Every sin is, indeed, a sin against our Lord and Maker; and yet, in Jesus, we can claim total forgiveness for all those sins, not because we deserve it — we don’t — but only because of God’s grace toward us. Once we can grasp that sacred truth, once we can make this forgiveness our own, once we can experience for ourselves the reality of God’s forgiveness, we can begin to let go and forgive others. We forgive not because others deserve it but because it’s what we have received from God and what we need ourselves. And besides, how often do we deserve forgiveness, as well?
As we saw, too, Joseph offered a second chance for the family relations. No grudges here; no falling back to things that happened in the past.
It is almost impossible to begin again in a family when we have each become experts at learning how best to hurt each other. But that’s not how Joseph reacts. It seems that he wants to put the past behind them and to move ahead with love and acceptance. Had Joseph a different attitude, this story would have had a different ending, one not so happy.
|“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin” ( Romans 4.7-8, NKJV). What is Paul telling us about what we have been given in Jesus and how this wonderful promise should impact how we relate to those who have hurt us?|