It seems like a simple question, but try to define the word “forgiveness” in your own words without actually using the word “forgive.” Not easy! One definition for forgiveness is, “a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.” Or more simply, “forgiveness is making the decision to let someone off the hook!”
To some people, forgiveness seems weak and passive. In reality, forgiveness requires a lot of moral strength and is very intentional. To forgive someone for a past indiscretion requires the strength of character to make an intentional decision to “let it go” and to move on. Forgiveness is actually very empowering, both to the person who made the mistake as well as to the person offering the pardon for the offense. Forgiveness frees both the criminal as well as the victim. Lewis Smedes wrote, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
In the Bible, Joseph was a person who had been abused by his brothers when he was young. Years later, after their father had died, Joseph’s brothers were afraid that Joseph (who now had become very powerful) would want to extract vengeance on his brothers for all their cruelty towards him. The brothers came to Joseph begging for their lives! They deserved retribution for all they had done! But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives!” (Genesis 50:19-20)
How could Joseph possibly forgive his brothers for all the terrible things that they had done to him? Joseph was able to offer forgiveness because he did not focus on all the terrible things that his brothers had done rather, Joseph focused on all the goodness of God. God had rescued Joseph and God redeemed Joseph from his terrible situation.
The truth is that we are no better than Joseph’s brothers. We are responsible for the penalty placed upon Jesus with his humiliation and death on the cross. You and I should be begging for forgiveness from Jesus whom we shamelessly abuse with our selfish sins of deceit. Yet, Jesus willingly went to the cross to bear the burden of our sin. Now Jesus says to us, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives!”
How can you and I offer forgiveness to others? By focusing on the goodness of God that He has poured on us so richly through the blood of His Son Jesus! We can forgive others, because we have been forgiven in Christ! We now become conduits of God’s grace to others! May God give you the faith to receive the love of Jesus and the courage to share this gift of love and forgiveness with others!
Forgiven by Jesus!