“Freedom of Forgiveness”
Genesis 45:3-7; Colossians 3:13
Rev. Scott Parker
Our Genesis passage takes place many years after Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery in Egypt. After a severe famine in the land, the brothers must purchase grain from the governor ofEgypt. They are completely unaware that the powerful governor before them is their own brother, Joseph, who had prospered under God’s care even in slavery. For many months, Joseph had been using his power to make his brothers suffer for what they had done years ago. Now, Joseph has a change of heart.
Genesis 45:3-7 (NIV)
Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!  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.  For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.  But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
FORGIVING OTHERS IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH.
A 2005 Harvard medical school study reported that forgiving those who have hurt you can improve your mental and physical wellbeing. Their “five reasons to forgive” include REDUCED STRESS, BETTER HEART HEALTH, STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS, REDUCED PAIN, AND GREATER HAPPINESS.
Researchers discovered that nursing a grudge puts your body through the same strains as a major stressful event: muscles tense, blood pressure rises, and sweating increases. Forgiving someone, however, improves blood pressure and heart rate, and decreases the workload for the heart. The Harvard report also refers to a study on people with chronic back pain that found that those who were able to move from anger to compassion actually felt less pain and anxiety than those who received regular care.
We are in the second week of our message series, Real Hurts, Real Freedom—we’re looking at the story of Joseph from the Old Testament, and just as God was able to redeem and heal Joseph from a painful past, God is able and longing to do the same in YOUR life. A key to this healing process (and it IS a process) is our willingness to FORGIVE.
If you remember from last week, Joseph’s jealous older brothers sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt, then ripped his beautiful coat into shreds and told their father that he was killed by a wild animal.
In our Genesis passage today, we find Joseph and his brothers reunited many years later. Joseph is now a powerful leader, Pharoah’s right hand man, and before him, begging for mercy, are his brothers. Joseph is holding all the cards. You can imagine Joseph dreaming about that day and now it’s here. It’s like Bill Gates going to his high school reunion.
WHAT WILL JOSEPH DO to them?
Joseph blesses them. He releases them from their guilt-in the verses that follow, he embraces and kisses them, invites them to live with him to escape the famine, and even influences Phraroah to give them the best land in Egypt.
We don’t see the actual word here, but Joseph’s actions are those of someone who has forgiven. FORGIVENESS is when you can look into the eyes of the person who sinned against you, and pray for their blessing/prosperity.
Key to experiencing freedom from life’s hurts in learning to FORGIVE.
“Somebody hurt you, maybe yesterday, maybe a lifetime ago, and you cannot forget it. You did not deserve the hurt. It went deep, deep enough to lodge itself in your memory. And it keeps on hurting you now.”
-Lewis Smedes, Forgive and forget
Some hurts in life don’t require forgiveness:
ANNOYANCES: Someone doesn’t do it the way you would do it
SLIGHTS: You feel overlooked, left out, underappreciated
DISAPPOINTMENTS & UNMET EXPECTATIONS: People let you down.
These need ACCEPTANCE; TOLERANCE, GOOD RESOLUTION SKILLS
…But these hurts are merely surface wounds
I do want to point out that often these minor hurts escalate into major hurts b/c we don’t deal with them properly when they are small. This happens in churches a lot, and is why we have to communicate with one another when are expectations are not being met.
MOST OF THE HURTS WE EXPERIENCE CAN BE TURNED AROUND INTO SOMETHING POSITIVE BEFORE THEY ESCALATE INTO A DEEP HURT
(We’ll be talking about that in two weeks in our message on Redeeming Relationships)
But today, we are going to talk about the hurts that do require forgiveness.
FORGIVENESS has to do with Deep wounds-When we are painfully WRONGED by another person
Lew Smedes gives
3 indicators for a hurt that needs forgiveness: PERSONAL; UNFAIR; DEEP
Forgiveness is NOT:
*Approval of or minimizing the wrong; not smoothing things over
*Taking the blame for the wrong that you’re not responsible for
*Allowing someone to keep hurting you
But what do we do When we have been wronged by someone who has:
Betrayed us; Deceived us; Abused us; who won’t acknowledge what they did
These are the hurts that cannot be healed by
Forgetting about it; Excusing; Accepting; Tolerating
WHAT DO WE DO WHEN WE RECEIVE DEEP WOUNDS LIKE THAT?
These kinds of wounds can be healed only by forgiving the person who wounded you.
Marjorie Thompson’s definition of forgiveness:
To forgive is to make a conscious choice to release the person who has wounded us from the sentence of our judgment, however justified that judgment may be. It represents a choice to leave behind our resentment and desire for retribution, however fair such punishment might seem.
Forgiveness is HARD
I want you to listen carefully: THE THING THAT MAKES FORGIVING PAST WOUNDS SO HARD IS THE REASON WHY FORGIVING THEM IS SO NECESSARY: SIN IS DESTRUCTIVE.
When we are sinned against / hurt by another person, a destructive power has entered our lives.
One of the practices in Jesus’ day was a GUILT offering-Asam (Hebrew)
Asam, guilt, emphasized the damage done by someone’s betrayal or abuse. Sin causes a BREACH in our relationships (we can’t look that person in the eye), and a breach in our lives (we can’t let go of the pain)
SIN is like a Bullet that pierces us-it violates God’s intended good for our lives.
So when Asam was committed, the violation was considered so severe that the guilty party had to pay not only full restitution, but an extra 1/5 (pain and suffering). THIS IS A BASIC, UNIVERSAL RESPONSE: WHEN WE ARE WOUNDED, VIOLATED BY A PERSON, WE WANT THEM TO PAY.
Think about it: when someone has committed even a minor offense against us,
*We expect them to say I’M SORRY –and to FEEL sorry
*We want them to acknowledge their wrong and feel bad
*Sometimes we want them to experience a punishment
What it comes down to is this:
WE WANT THAT OTHER PERSON TO TASTE THE SAME PAIN THAT WE TASTED WHEN WE WERE SINNED AGAINST (this is a natural human experience) But…
Here’s the problem that creates:
The sin that violates us, that bullet that pierces us, WILL CONTINUE TO DO DAMAGE AS LONG AS IT REMAINS IN US. There are bullets that are designed not to exit the body, but to remain in motion as long as possible—as long as that bullet remains in motion, it will tear through flesh, rupture vital organs, and cause as much damage as possible.
*When we insist that the other person pay for what they did
*When we keep hanging on to a wound that the other person doesn’t acknowledge
*When we hold onto the memory of a painful past event
The Bullet Remains in Motion, and it tears us up
If we refuse to forgive…
1) We do not experience God’s forgiveness
2) a barrier in our prayer life is created
3) Resentment is produced;
4) bitterness & anger begins to RULE our lives;
5) We relive the old wound in new situations;
6) We are USELESS to God
**A few years ago I was hurt by someone and wasn’t forgiving the person. A friend was encouraging me to let it go; I just couldn’t, until he said “Scott, as long as you hold onto this, God will not be able to use you.” That stopped me in my tracks, because I can’t imagine going through life without being able to be used by God. I came to my senses.
The bullet of a past wound will countinue to do damage as long as it is in motion
–It damages our relationships, our joy, our peace, our fruitfulness, our hearts, UNTIL THE BULLET IS STOPPED.
To Forgive is CHOOSING TO STOP THE BULLET
Forgiveness says “I choose to surrender my right for this wound to cause any more damage…to the person who wronged me, and to myself.”
To FORGIVE is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was YOU.
Paul’s Invitation to Forgive in Colossians 3:13
1) “…forgive each other…”= Chorizesthai (Gk)=a gracious, ready forgiveness
We are to Initiate forgiveness, even when it is undeserved. This stops the power of a past wound from inflicting any more damage, and allows healing to begin.
Keep in mind that forgiveness is a CHOICE and a PROCESS
We choose to forgive, and release the person from their act, even when we have yet to feel forgiving. But as we choose and continue to choose to stop the bullet of a past hurt, we will experience the process of greater and greater freedom from the wound. It will not happen overnight. But it must begin.
PRAYER OF FORGIVENESS:
1) Name the person
2) Define the circumstances
3) Ask for God’s help as you pray this prayer:
*God, I ask that You forgive me of my attitude, my unforgiveness, and my bitterness
*I now choose by an act of my will, to forgive________________once and for all time.
*I will not hold the hurts any longer.
*I release _______________ from the debt I felt that _____________ owed me.
*____________you are now free and forgiven.
*God, I ask that You now restore the joy of my salvation and help me to resist Satan’s lies to rehearse this hurt anymore.
*I know that, God, You have given me the power to forgive, and I know that I am forgiven because You first forgave me.
*I begin my NEW life today. Amen
We have all experienced wounds that we did not deserve, and cannot forget.
I have, too. Over the past few years, I have been very intentional to forgive those who have hurt me,
And I am here to tell you that it doesn’t work-on my own.
ON MY OWN, I cannot forgive.
BUT there is a second part to Paul’s word to the Colossians.
You are to forgive AS THE LORD HAS FORGIVEN YOU.
We are able to forgive others because Jesus forgave us FIRST.
Reflect for a moment on the sins that have been committed against you.
Now, consider the sins and wounds that you have inflicted upon God.
We each deserve to taste the pain of each and every one of those sins,
But Jesus took that pain upon himself when he tasted death on the cross.
We are given the power to forgive a great debt when we understand that we have BEEN FORGIVEN an even greater one.