Sunday, October 31, 2010

Forgiving the Unforgivable

Forgiving the Unforgivable
Nov 1, 2010
Genesis 50:17 ". . . I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. . ."

Most are familiar with the story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph really didn't do anything wrong to deserve such harsh treatment by his brothers, but they plotted to kill him and sold him into slavery instead. Through Joseph's many years of suffering, after being enslaved and later falsely accused and imprisoned, the Lord was able to shape him into quite the man of God. In Joseph's twist of fate, he was elevated to second in charge of all Egypt and found himself staring in the faces of his brothers. What an opportunity Joseph had for revenge, except he didn't harm them or give them the punishment they rightly deserved. He forgave them. That's right, Joseph forgave them before they even had a chance to ask for his forgiveness.

It's one thing to forgive someone after he has come to you to beg for forgiveness, but it's another to forgive someone BEFORE he asks for it. Read Joseph's story to see for yourself. In fact, Joseph's brothers NEVER did ask forgiveness; they knew they didn't even deserve it. At one point, after their father died, his brothers were in fear of Joseph's possible retribution, even after he forgave them. His brothers knew Joseph would respect the wishes of his father. So they sent a messenger, in their stead, and told Joseph that their father had instructed him to forgive his brothers.

This story does not stop here though, it is picked up again by, none other than, Jesus. Jesus doesn't speak directly about the story of Joseph, but He tells us all to forgive our brothers. Jesus served as a messenger who instructed us that God, the Father, has asked us to forgive our brothers. Jesus' instructions parallel the forgiveness extended to Joseph's brothers. Your brother may not deserve forgiveness, like Joseph's brothers, but nonetheless, you are to forgive. In forgiving others, even before they deserve it or ask for it, you are representing the forgiveness of God. God provided for our forgiveness through the death of Christ, even before we asked for it, even though we never deserved it.

It gets better. Jesus tells us that we are to forgive our brothers or else God cannot forgive us. He was saying this to make perfect the forgiveness of the Father in our lives. Why would God forgive you if you were harboring resentment and anger and bitterness toward someone else? It would be a slap in the face to God, asking that forgiveness be extended toward you but not being willing to extend it toward others. If you asked for God's forgiveness, but were not willing to extend it toward others, it would demonstrate to God that you really didn't care about Him or His forgiveness, that you really didn't want forgiveness you just wanted to get rid of the guilty feeling. It would tell God that you really weren't repentant and changed, you just slightly felt bad for what you did.

There have, undoubtedly, been many people in your life that have never asked for your forgiveness. This doesn't mean you don't have to forgive them. You must. In forgiving them, you are making perfect God's own forgiveness in your life and becoming more in His image. Though your brother or sister may not deserve forgiveness, it is your obligation, as a Christian to extend it. In doing so, it might actually lead him to his own repentance before God. It's not easy to forgive the unforgivable. It took God putting to death His own Son, that we might be forgiven (recall it was Christ's death on the cross that provided for the forgiveness of your sins). In order to forgive, you may have to let something dear to you die, that pride of being right, in order that your forgiveness might be made perfect and complete, too.

And remember that unforgivable person. . . it was you at one point.

1. Who have you not forgiven, are there one or two people in your life who have never asked for forgiveness?
2. How can you forgive them, even though you don't feel they deserve it?
3. How can you put to death your resentment and bitterness in order to forgive, making you more Christ-like?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 45:4-8, Gen 50:15-21, Matt 6:14-16, Matt 18:34-45, Lk 17:3-5, Acts 5:31, Rom 5:8, Col 3:13, 1 Tim 1:15, Heb 9:22, 1 John 1:9

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