The Secret Formula to Forgiveness
Joseph was an Old Testament figure who first experienced suffering before receiving glory. From a human perspective, Joseph’s sufferings initially came at the hands of his brothers. If they did not harbour jealousy and hatred in their hearts, disregarded sibling affection, and cruelly sold him to Ishmaeli merchants, he would not have changed from the pampered son of his father to a slave subject to the orders and physical abuse of others. He would not have been forced to separate from his beloved father for over ten years and sold to a foreign land as a hard labourer, and his feet would not be injured from this ordeal (Psalm 105:18). Imagine if you were Joseph, what would you feel whenever you looked at the scars on your feet caused by the shackles? Would you be filled with anguish and bitterness?
Jesus had commanded us: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Do we defend ourselves by saying, “Christ can love, because He is God. We are mortal, so we have the will but not the means to love others.” Joseph had the same human character as we do. If he could accept and forgive his brothers, we can do the same with the help of the Lord. But what is the secret formula? This writer believes that there are two:
The first secret formula: look at our circumstances from God’s point of view. Joseph soothed his panic-stricken brothers by saying, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” (Genesis 45:5, 7) After the death of Jacob, his brothers were worried that Joseph would seek revenge. But Joseph again brought them back to the will of God and comforted them in love, saying, “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) We should understand that though our suffering may seem on the surface to be of human origin, we must realize that God is still in charge of everything. He does not commit any mistakes. All the hurt that befall us have God’s permission. We should first examine ourselves to see if the hardships we face are due to our own foolishness and ignorance or sin. If not, then we hold on to a blameless conscience and wait silently in our trials for God to do His work. Perhaps He is testing us by nurturing our innermost character that belongs to God through adversity brought by people. We should not forget that to the faithful God shows Himself faithful, and to the blameless He shows Himself blameless (Psalm 18:25).
The second secret formula: think more of the blessings from God and learn to forget the wrongdoings of others. The names that Joseph gave his two sons point out how he employed every means to get himself to forget the past suffering and put his own focus on the grace of God. “Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh (meaning forget) and said, ‘It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household.’ The second son he named Ephraim (meaning fruitful) and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’”(Genesis 41:51-52) I think you all agree that affliction delivered to us by our enemies do not compare with that delivered by our kinsmen or those we love and trust. Joseph confronted this same indelible adversity that would not be easily forgotten. Yet he understood that “God made me forget my trouble” and “God made me fruitful”. Whenever we kneel down to pray or step forward to share in the Bread and Cup of the Lord, and remember the acceptance and forgiveness of God towards us sinners, how can we still stubbornly refuse to forgive our brothers? Think often how we are not worthy of the Lord’s grace, and learn to forget the hardships of this earth and the sufferings brought on by people in the past. This will allow us to be more unencumbered, and live more happily.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
By: Daniel To