“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20
Do you remember this verse from Sunday School? It’s probably been awhile since you have seen it outside of your personal reading time. People do not talk about this verse much. People don’t like talking about the possible connotations of God and bad things happening to people. People debate over this verse far too often. Did God predestine for all of those bad things to happen to Joseph. Was God holding to the ideal of the ends justify the means? The debating over this verse is unfortunate. The reason is because this story of forgiveness is one of the most powerful examples for us as believers to follow.
Joseph’s brothers were trapped with guilt. When their father died they believed the only thing protecting them had been gone form this world. For all they knew Joseph was faking his kindness to them for the sake of their father. Guilt is a powerful thing. It sucks any joy out of life. I keeps us fro living with purpose. It keeps us from being used by God.
Forgiveness is equally as powerful. It frees people from that power of guilt. It breaks the shackles of sinful memories. It gives people the freedom to move forward. Forgiveness is crucial. It also is a pain in the neck. Yes, you read that right. Forgiveness is hard to do. We don’t like the idea of forgiveness. We don’t like it because to often it is preached as another word for ignorance of other peoples sinful actions.
Forgive and forget. We ask the impossible when we proclaim that. It comes from the concept of Scripture telling us that God shall remember our sins no more. If God forgets our sins then we must follow in his example and forget those who sin against us, but does forget really mean forget?
My church history professor talked about this concept in class yesterday, and made a really interesting point. If we truly claim that God forgets our sins completely then we have a problem. The problem is that we still remember our own sins. This means that we now know something God doesn’t. Clearly our interpretation on that Scripture is wrong then. If it doesn’t mean that God will permanently forget then what does it mean? My professor gave his answer to that question and I am inclined to agree with him. It means God will never remind you over your sin. He won’t hold it over your head. He won’t shame you with guilt over your past sins.
Forgiveness isn’t ignorance. It is not shoving sin under the rug. It is not enabling bad behavior. It is an acknowledgment that God is the one who has the final say. God is the true judge. It is acknowledgment that the bod can be restored even when sin is the cause.
I struggle with forgiveness. It is hard for me. Part of the reason is because to often it is taught to me as ignorance. Even when it is not taught as ignorance I am rarely told how it actually works. When I look at the forgiving heart of Joseph I see that it came naturally to him. He was able to forgive his brother verbally because he had already made that choice of forgiveness a long time ago. How did he reach that point?
I think it is because he realized that even when they did their worse it was not enough to pull him down. He realize that God was able to work even within the parameters of their evil actions. What Joseph understood was that bitterness, anger, and resentment towards his brother’s sinful actions would also mean having those same feelings directed at God. It was their sins that launched Joseph on a journey that God used to bring about salvation for his chosen people.
I’m still learning, but I have begun to believe that forgiveness start by realizing that God takes even the bad things done to us to make us who we are. I think that can bring about acceptance towards those past hurts. Things that are said to me in the past shape me in a new way. That guide me in new direction. Harmful actions done against me mold me into a new kind of person.
The truth is that sin done against us will always mold us into a new kind of person. I can mold us into being bitter and cynical, or it can mold us into something bigger that God has intended for us to be. The latter is what leads to forgiveness.