By David Owens: Because we are all sinners and live among sinners, we have all had our share of disappointments and hurts. Every Christian can share the account of a horrible experience of being hurt by another person. Abuse is a sad fact in our world.
Many times I have tried to help someone who has been hurt, and they respond to me with, “You don’t understand what they did to me, I just cannot forgive them.” Luke 6:37 commands “…forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” Ephesians 4:32 says: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” If God commands us to forgive others, then it is possible to forgive! Yes, You Can Forgive!
In Genesis 37 through 47, and chapter 50, we read the amazing account of Joseph not only being hurt, offended, and abused, but we read the process of forgiveness. Joseph is a type of Jesus Christ, the One who forgives us. As Joseph was sent by God to Egypt “…to save much people alive” and being abused in the process, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (Genesis 50:20, 1 Timothy 1:15)
Yes, you can forgive! Many find it hard to forgive because they have been led to believe that to forgive is to forget. Please don’t miss this statement:God is the only one with the ability to forget sins. God covers our sin with His blood, He buries our sin in the deepest sea, and our sin is removed from God as far as the East is from the West. Only God has the ability to justify, to make us just as if we’ve never sinned. Humans cannot do any of those things. Humans cannot just choose to forget, but we can choose to forgive. If you understand what forgiveness is, then you can choose to forgive. God’s forgiveness does not cause Him to forget our sins, His justification does. We are commanded to forgive, we are not commanded to forget or justify sin.
Please understand that forgiveness is not a blanket elimination of wrongs, sins, or injustices done to you. Forgiveness does not deny, erase, undo, ignore, cover, hide, justify or forget wrongs. Forgiveness does not try to overlook the fact that you were hurt. Humans don’t forget being wounded. Scars do not magically just disappear. Just like a pardon, forgiveness does not dispute the guilt, it only eliminates the punishment. Forgiveness does not hold a grudge, demand payment or inflict punishment. Forgiveness says you are guilty, but I choose not to be the one to make you pay. However, forgiveness does not change the reputation of the offender. Forgiveness does not clear the offender. Exodus 34:7 refers to God “…forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.” Do not miss this, I am commanded to forgive you, but I am not commanded to trust you! I will not be the one to punish you, but as sure as I was hurt, I’m not going back for seconds!
Forgiveness is godly, it is spiritual, and it always benefits the one who forgives, whether or not it is accepted by the offender. Forgiveness is the first step to avoid or eliminate bitterness which grieves the Holy Spirit of God who indwells you. Ephesians 4:30-32 says, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Far too many Christians cannot reach their full potential for the Lord because the bitterness of an unforgiving spirit has grieved God’s Holy Spirit within you.Then, you excuse the bitterness because you have been hurt. Yes, you may have been hurt, but forgiveness is the tool that God has given to you to destroy the bitterness before it destroys you. Bitterness hurts you worse than the original wrong done to you.
Forgiveness says it is not my job or responsibility to get revenge, make someone pay, keep a list of wrongs done to me or even remember someones else’s guilt. Both vengeance and punishment belong to God. Romans 12:19 says, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Guilt is a strange thing. If you keep the guilt of the one who offended you inside of you, then you will be the one who continues to experience the consequences of guilt. Your grudge will not hurt your abuser, it will continue to hurt you. If you want freedom then you must forgive. Forgiveness always benefits you, the forgiver, whether or not it is accepted by the offender.
Forgiveness is godly! You do not have a forgiving spirit unless your forgiveness is available to everyone. Forgiveness is deliberately offered to the offending party, whether they accept it or not. The forgiver should not wait for a request to be forgiven nor for acceptance by the sinner. It must be understood that sometimes the one who offends you does not even know that they offended you, or they do not understand the severity of their actions. Luke 23:34 says, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Forgiveness should be available for those who may not even know what they have done wrong.
I am commanded to forgive you, but I am not commanded to trust you! I will not be the one to punish you, but as sure as I was hurt I’m not going back for seconds! Forgiveness involves two parties: the offender and the offended, the one who hurt and the one who is hurt, the abuser and the abused. An abuser hurts his own trustworthiness! An offense divides, it destroys trust just as our sin offends God and separates us from Him. You may like the dog that bit you and you may forgive the dog, but there is a problem if you trust the dog not to bite again. Forgiveness does not kick the dog. You must now be on guard because the dog has proven that it has teeth. If you have been hurt, you are to forgive, but if you did the hurting you are now responsible to rebuild the trust that you have broken down. So the breach of trust, the separation, is only healed based on the actions of the offender. Psalm 86:5 says, “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…”
Forgiveness is offered, but it can only be accepted based on the terms of the forgiver. Jeremiah 36:3 says, “…return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” God is teaching that although He forgives the man who does evil or hurts another, this evil man will not benefit from God’s forgiveness, unless he changes his evil way. This man who hurt another must build his own destroyed reputation, he must now prove that he can be trusted. The offender will not even “feel” forgiven until he rebuilds trust. This is why many abusers accuse those they have hurt of not forgiving. This rebuilding process must satisfy the distrust of the one abused.
Yes, You Can Forgive! Let’s learn from Joseph how we can forgive. I suggest that you read this account yourself from the Book of Genesis. Forgive and forget? Better not! Forgiveness is given, trust is earned, and trust is harder to earn after it is broken.
Joseph is now a ruler in Egypt with control of the world’s food supply when his ten brothers, who offended and abused him, showed up asking for food. What did Joseph do; was he bitter, or did he hold a grudge? Not at all, but he sure didn’t trust them! He forgave them, but they must now be tested. Notice, Genesis 42:15-20 says, “Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither. Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies. And he put them all together into ward three days. And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God: If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses: But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.”
So, you’ve been hurt real bad? Forgive! Do not require punishment or payment, but please, the abuser must prove that they are trustworthy before you chance putting yourself in a position to be harmed again.
1. Forgive. Be kind. Do not punish or hold grudges. Do not become bitter. (Ephesians 4:30-32)
2. Know that offenders must prove themselves, so have a plan. Joseph, on purpose, tested his brothers. Do not trust words, promises and tears. Do not trust, “I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again. Just give me one more chance.” Give them a chance, but at a distance.
3. Keep your distance. Genesis 42:23 says, “And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.” Joseph kept his distance, he did not trust them. This cannot be emphasized enough. The innocent must be protected from abusers. The abuser is the one who destroyed trust and erected the wall to protect others from his abuse.
4. Do good to them. Genesis 42:25 says, “Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man’s money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them.” Two wrongs do not make a right. Because you have been hurt does not give you the right to hurt your abuser or become an abuser. Do Good!
5. Reward trust that is being earned. Genesis 43:16 says, “And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon.” It is right to test, and no one deserves trust just because they are your family or friend; but when the abuser tries to earn some trust, reward them for their effort.
6. Do not expect or force payment for your forgiveness. Be gracious. Genesis 43:23 says, “And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them.” Remember you are testing, not punishing.
7. Do not fault or reject innocent relations or friends of the abuser. Joseph never lost his trust for his dad or Benjamin because they never abused his trust. Joseph even felt an obligation to protect them. Do not pit the innocent against the offender.
8. Be careful to keep control of yourself. Do not play the victim. Genesis 43:30-31 says, “And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there. And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.” You never read of Joseph complaining that he was abused, playing the victim or demanding sympathy.
9. Do not be surprised if the abuser accuses you of not forgiving. Genesis 50:15-21 says, “And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”
Joseph ended up being the one who was kind and comforted the ones who hurt him. Joseph ended up being like Christ. Joseph ended up without bitterness. Who was really hurting all these years? Not Joseph, but his brothers; not the abused, but the abusers! This only happened because Joseph forgave, but please understand that to forgive does not mean that you forget. That is a good thing because then we as humans would go back for more abuse.
Maybe you have been the offender or have abused another person. You have no right to demand forgiveness from the one you hurt. You must accept the fact that you have made your own reputation and you alone have the responsibility to build the trust that you have destroyed. You must now pass the test that proves your truthfulness.
Hurt? Abused? Offended? Feel like you can’t forget it? You’re right, you can’t and don’t try ignoring it either. But yes, you can forgive and you must!
Original article can be found here.
Westside Baptist Church
Original article can be found here.