Since Sunday I have been angry. I have been yelling. A lot. I’ve been steaming, fuming. I’ve gotten into better moods, only to flash back into anger. I sit steaming, wondering “what am I supposed to do here.” I know I’m supposed to be able to forgive. But I also have my honor. My pride. I’m also expected in this situation to be angry. To hold a grudge. If I told you what is happening here, you would tell me I should want some blood in return.
In fact, most of you might think less of me if I don’t extract that blood. Most people who read this have some foundation and belief in Jesus Christ, but even those who do believe in Christ, don’t usually actually believe in His ideas. We don’t actually believe we should love our enemies. We don’t believe we should turn the other cheek.
And we don’t believe in forgiving those who trespass against us. We love and believe wholeheartedly in the forgiveness of our own personal sins through Christ Jesus. Forgiving others who hurt us, not so much.
It’s funny how God works. There is nothing funny about the situation I’m in right now, but when I can get perspective and think, He is working in amazing ways. This struggle came up as I was in the middle of reading the book Unconditional? The call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness by Brian Zahnd. So Wednesday night I take my son to batting practice and have a good talk with my sponsor, I’ve been getting to a better place mentally. Then I sit down during practice and read about the story of Joseph at the end of Genesis. It’s a loooong bible story, so in three sentences or less, let’s just say that he was hated by his brothers to the point they sold him into slavery and claimed he was dead. He lived as a slave for 13 years in Egypt. He rose, was wrongfully accused and imprisoned, stayed true to who he was, didn’t give in to the temptation to bitterness, and ultimately rose to second in command. Ultimately, he meets his family and brothers in a situation where he (Joseph) is in the position of having his brothers having to rely on him simply for food to survive. He had the power of their lives or death in his own hands. He chose life.
When his father dies….now his brothers are in full panic mode. They just know that now Joseph will get the vengeance he completely deserves and which no one would deny him. But instead, this is what Joseph said to his brothers – “But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 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. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” Genesis 50:19-21 ESV. They meant evil against Joseph for sure, and he calls it what it is. But God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. That’s right, but God. God used it for good. At some point go read in Genesis the entire story of Joseph. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 ESV. Joseph loved God, and God used the evil done to him to save hundreds of thousands for sure, maybe millions, during a time of great famine in Egypt. (Like i said – go read the story). But more that that, Joseph moved beyond the betrayal of his brothers. And it is at that point, where Joseph chose to break the chain of retaliation and revenge. He chose to forgive so that his family can have a future. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said – “Without forgiveness, there is no future.” And ponder this for a moment. Joseph forgave his brothers so that his family may have a future. He said God had used their evil for good so that many many be kept alive. But how many were kept alive by Joseph’s choice to forgive? Without his forgiveness of his brothers….their is no bible!!! Without forgiveness, the bible never gets past Genesis!! It is because Joseph forgave that our bible, and God’s plan of redemption for mankind through Jesus Christ, had and has a future.
So my heart was softened right there at an indoor batting practice. My anger melted away. It’s no accident that this happened at this point in my walk, and at the point that God had me right in the middle of a book bearing prophetic witness to His own teachings on forgiveness. He taught us to forgive, and then he modeled right from the cross, which his enemies meant for evil. But the Father had a different plan for that cross, to use it for good. To use it as the throne of Jesus Christ.
But before we could have that future in Christ, we needed forgiveness. Jesus offers that forgiveness – “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 ESV. Instead of crying out for vengeance form the Father, Jesus cries out for forgiveness. Instead of calling down heavens armies, we receive God’s grace. The Father then vindicates Him on the third day, declaring for all time that “YES!!! This is the way to everlasting life!! This is how you live!!” Don’t ever forget what God cried out at Jesus baptism – “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”” Matthew 3:17 ESV, and on the mountain of transfiguration – “…”This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”” Matthew 17:5 ESV. And then the resurrection. It doesn’t record those same words directly but it says them loud and clear. He raised Jesus on Easter Morning and declares for all time, unmistakably, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
So I choose to listen to Him. I am a Christian, after all. I am choosing forgiveness. I am not going to be defined by this thing. I am a child of the King, after all. Instead of giving into the enemies trap of revenge and retaliation, Jesus brought the Kingdom of God into the world, showing us radical forgiveness while being executed on a Roman Crucifix. This is what it means for us to take up our cross and follow Him. It means we exercise our option to forgive, stopping the enemies cycle bitterness and anger, revenge and retribution. We take the hurt, the anger, the rage upon ourselves, and we recycle it until it comes back out as forgiveness. We take the the evil and turn it into love.
Without forgiveness, there is no future.
Without forgiveness, there is no hope.
Without forgiveness, there is no SALVATION.
“And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.””
John 12:44-50 ESV
“We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
1 John 5:19 ESV