The topic of forgiveness has been consuming me these past several days. We still are in awe we were able to forgive each other for the travesty in our own marriage. We truly count our blessings and cherish each other all the more as we are witnessing so many passing from this life into eternity. As we were recently reminded, life can end in a flash. The 34-year-old son of friends was killed as the result of a car wreck. We can’t fathom the grief or tragedy this family is now enduring. But we do know there was a lot of love in the family and that it had been reciprocated in kind for years! This helped our resolve that we want to live our lives to the fullest and not have any un-forgiveness in our hearts.
This is what I learned the other day: It is really HARD for us mortals to forgive each other; however, our LORD forgives us instantaneously, as soon as we ask HIM to forgive us, it is done! 1 John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It is that simple!
I have been blessed to experience it instantly by a man (Bill) and by our LORD (constantly). There is nothing so sweet as being forgiven when you are the one who committed the offense! So for some, this may be a “so what moment?” For me, how the LORD knit this together in my heart, mind and soul was interesting.
I know the sweetness of forgiveness because I was the one who initiated our divorce, the one who ended our marriage and tore our family apart. You can read our numerous blogs about how God caught my attention and brought about the reconciliation of our marriage (most recently relived in our Tribute to Larry Hurst). But yet, this is a new revelation to me! Here are three circumstances that helped me come to a new truth:
1. Our church is going through a transition as our Pastor resigned about 8 months ago, so we are in the process of calling a new Pastor. This is our (Bill and Debbie) first time to go through something like this. And we have learned there is no way around it, people get hurt when a pastor leaves, no matter the circumstances. So our congregation needed to hear some healing messages. We have had a variety of guest pastors preaching the Word each Sunday. Several preached on the subject of forgiveness (and in fact our Pastoral Candidate taught on this subject in Sunday School as he was candidating). We know these messages were so important and well received, if nothing else, by us! So I am sure these great sermons and teachings began to work in my heart and mind to focus on this topic. I know they are also making Bill think!
2. Recently, Matthew West came out with the song, Forgiveness, which has an amazing and interesting testimony behind it. In case you don’t know, it is about how a mother forgave a young man (age 24) who killed one of her daughters (20 years old and her friend) while driving under the influence of alcohol. I recently heard the full testimony (listen to the clip in the link to Forgiveness and look for the video) of the mother. As a mother of an only child, a beautiful daughter, my heart was deeply moved by this mother’s story. In fact, my heart was pierced to the core by this story. It seems every time I turned on the radio, this song was playing! Maybe that is why I am also consumed by the topic of Forgiveness!
3. This year I am again reading the Bible cover to cover on a daily basis, in chronological order (my second time reading it this way, but in a different version this year). I just finished the book of Genesis (with a side reading of the book of Job). I love how I can read the same chapters year after year and each time something new pops out. This time, it was about forgiveness! The reading really got to me and it took me a few minutes to connect the dots! Is this message for me (am I carrying unresolved forgiveness) or is God using me to reach someone? It was heavy reading and I kept mulling it around….Lord, what do I need to take from this? Where do I need to apply it?
My revelation began as I was re-reading Genesis Chapters 41-45, about the life of Joseph, the son Jacob (Israel) favored. Remember the story of the “Coat of Many Colors?” “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors.” (Genesis 37:3). Here is a quick recap where Joseph’s life continues, from Genesis 41-45: His brothers not only hated him because of the coat (and his father’s favor) but a dream Joseph had, they would one day bow down to him. So his brothers sold him into slavery but told their dad he must have been killed by an animal as they found the coat shredded and full of blood. He was then falsely accused of assaulting the wife of his owner and subsequently served years in prison. Finally he is redeemed by his God-given gifts. He ends up becoming second in command to Pharaoh and is put in charge of all the grain in the land, knowing a great famine is coming. And when the famine began to affect his father and brothers, they went to buy precious grain from their brother – unbeknownst to them. Joseph instantly recognized them, but they did not know who he was. He was able to keep his “secret” from them for a time and put his brothers through some cruel hoops….and then it hit me! What did it take for Joseph to forgive his brothers? Think about it. You suffer for years about what someone has done to you only to see that bad turn into good! You are now second in command of a great country! He has not seen his brothers for over 20 years and they come to him for food. He knew one day they would bow to him, but he played with them instead of accepting reality! The way Joseph behaved was more surprising this time I read about him. Look at his victorious life! He has risen as high as a man could possibly go in his position, he had great power and authority. I had to look into the commentaries to see what was going on. It just didn’t stand out to me. How could he be so cruel to his brothers? I learned he needed to test their sincerity! And then my immediate remembrance!
When Bill and I had our “moment” at the foot of the cross and forgave each other, I couldn’t immediately reconcile! I had to “test” Bill’s sincerity and made him wait nearly eight months before I would consider remarrying him! And since that day, we have continued to forgive each other for our faults and foibles! So how wonderful to see this picture, but Ruth Graham Bell posted on Facebook…and below it is my conclusion.
I finished Genesis today (Jan 29, 2013). I kept waiting to read some very well known scriptures. Since I am in a different version, I thought maybe I missed it! But alas, here it is near the end of Genesis, I finally read one of my some of my favorite verse in Genesis 50:
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 21 So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Finally, a human being could show instant forgiveness, as soon as he knew it was according to God’s plan all along!
(For more about the life of Joseph, whom many see the foretelling of Jesus in this story and the redemption of mankind, here is another blog with it in great details. It is told in three parts, Chapters 25-27: http://injil.org/TWOR/25.html)