|Monday, Jun. 16, 2003 || The balancing act called forgiveness|
It is probably the toughest lesson learned. That tricky little f-word called “forgive”. There are many misconceptions about it. We often don’t offer, or receive, enough of it. It can even sometimes be used against us, or hurt us even more if it is offered too rashly or insincerely.
I know I have mused on this subject before. More than a few times. Yet there are still aspects of it that plague me, challenge me, frustrate me. I know it is the greatest gift I can give myself. That is the true essence of it: it is for me. It heals me. So, where is the current rub?
Are we really supposed to forgive and forget? We are told that is what God does. But does He demand that of me?
I am reminded of the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was a haughty little guy, bragging that if his dreams came true, he would one day rule over his bros. He was definitely the apple of ‘ole dad’s eye. And his band of brothers was pretty fed up. So, they threw him in a ditch, then decided they might make a little cash on the side and sold him into slavery.
Fast forward about 20 years and we find a famine in the land. Joseph, through a string of amazing events, has become second only to Pharoah in Egypt. Being a wise guy, he stock-piles grain and when the famine comes, Egypt is more than ready.
Joseph’s brothers head off to Egypt to buy some food. And who should enter stage left? You guessed it. Joseph. How does he respond to the very ones who favored him dead two decades before?
He reveals who he is, drawing them closer. Assuring them they have nothing to fear, offering mercy rather than justice. But here’s something I missed in the past. He says to them, “I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don't be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.”
Did you catch the subtlety in that statement? Had he forgiven them? Yes. But, how did he present himself to them? “…your brother whom you sold into Egypt…”
Doesn’t quite sound like he forgot, does it? Hmmmmm…
Must I forgive? Yes. No matter what the offense? Yes.
But here’s the misconception that often keeps us from forgiving deep emotional hurts, that I am afraid some offenders forget in their quest to “make themselves clean”. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forget-ness.
Here’s the point. Even though many years had passed, Joseph had not forgotten what his brothers had done to him. He did not sugarcoat the facts. And even our heavenly Father, when He says He won’t remember our sins (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 10:17), does not literally forget our wrongs. He is not an absentminded Father. Rather, His grace is so great that it swallows up all the darkness so that He can look at us as though we had never sinned.*
This little story teaches me that I do not have to deny the facts in order to forgive. I can confront my offenders with the truth of what they did and let them see my pain. Joseph did not forget, overlook, or excuse his brothers’ crime against him, but he did not make them suffer for their wrongs.*
And here’s something else to note. Even though Joseph does show his brothers an amazing amount of mercy, it is not implied that it was entirely “free of charge”. Though Joseph gave up his right to get even, he did not make himself vulnerable to them until he measured their true character (and boy did he test them; check out Genesis 42-44) and judged them capable of relating to him with integrity.*
I love this quote: “…the fact that he [Joseph] showered them with grace didn’t mean he was excusing their behavior. Perhaps most important, he chose to have a new relationship with them only after testing their hearts and determining that their relationship could indeed be new.”*
Forgive and forget? Yes.
*concepts and quote from Embracing Forgiveness: A Women of Faith Bible Study
Just a reminder - Friday, Aug. 10, 2007
Rockin' Girl Blogger - Wednesday, Jul. 18, 2007
A good end - Friday, Jun. 01, 2007
Moving on? Yes and no. - Monday, May. 07, 2007