THE JOY OF FORGIVENESS

 

A man that was heavily addicted to drugs broke in an older manís house looking for money. When he entered the bedroom he discovered that the older man was at home. In his haste, he attached the man and killed him. All he walked away with was few dollars. This drug addict was caught, tried, and convicted of murder. He was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

 

During the trial, the drug addict pleaded from the witness stand that the victimís family would forgive him he was sorry for taking the manís life. Among those family members that heard his plea was the victimís only daughter, who was a Christian. Though she hurt inside, she did forgive this man. In fact, she surprised many people because she not only forgave this man, she befriended him. She would write letters to him in prison and would visit him occasionally.

 

Since she was able to forgive him, she made something good come from the senseless murder of her father. She taught the drug addict about Jesus, and eventually, he obeyed the gospel. Though she does not think he deserves to be released from prison, she is thankful she was able to forgive this man and was able to teach this man what he needed to do be freed from shackles of sin.

 

Being able to forgive someone for a wrong is challenging and rewarding at the same time. While it is much easier to hold grudge and stay mad at someone, it is much better for your mental and physical health to forgive. For example, notice what Katherine Piderman of MayoClinic.com says about the benefits of forgiving someone:

 

What are the benefits of forgiving someone?

 

Letting go of grudges and bitterness makes way for compassion, kindness and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:

 

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and chronic pain
  • Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse

 

I have read several other studies done by doctors and universities that show similar benefits of being able to forgive. These clinical benefits are enough to show the joy of forgiveness, but Godís Word gives us many more reasons we should find joy in forgiveness.

 

Godís Word offers us examples of forgiveness and the benefits that came from it. Our first example comes from Esau and Jacob. Those familiar with their story know that Esau and Jacob were twins, but since Esau was born first he would receive the birthright, which was a double portion of the inheritance. However, we learn that Jacob was a crafty young man, and he found a way to get his brother to sell his birthright:

 

Genesis 25:29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary.30 And Esau said to Jacob, "Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary." Therefore his name was called Edom.31 But Jacob said, "Sell me your birthright as of this day."32 And Esau said, "Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?"33 Then Jacob said, "Swear to me as of this day." So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

 

Jacobís second offence against his brother was when their mother helped Jacob fool his father into giving him the blessing instead of Esau. When Esau found out about this second offense, he was furious:

 

Genesis 27:30 Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.31 He also had made savory food, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, "Let my father arise and eat of his son's game, that your soul may bless me."32 And his father Isaac said to him, "Who are you?" So he said, "I am your son, your firstborn, Esau."33 Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, "Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him -- and indeed he shall be blessed."34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, "Bless me -- me also, O my father!"35 But he said, "Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing."36 And Esau said, "Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!" And he said, "Have you not reserved a blessing for me?"37 Then Isaac answered and said to Esau, "Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?"38 And Esau said to his father, "Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me -- me also, O my father!" And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him:"Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, And of the dew of heaven from above.40 By your sword you shall live, And you shall serve your brother; And it shall come to pass, when you become restless, That you shall break his yoke from your neck."41 So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob."

 

With Esau was breathing threats of murder, Jacob runs away for safety and gets a taste of his own trickery by his uncle Laban (Gen. 29). After 20 years of serving his uncle, the Lord tells Jacob to return home (Gen. 31). On his way home, he encounters his brother.

 

Genesis 33:1 Now Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and there, Esau was coming, and with him were four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maidservants.2 And he put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children behind, and Rachel and Joseph last.3 Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

 

After all those years, Jacob was still afraid his brother would kill him. As he humbled himself before his brother, he quickly finds out that his brother has forgiven him. We can only imagine how much joy both brothers experienced at that moment as they had reconciled their differences. They had to wait 20 long years to cry those tears of joy, but their story shows us the power and joy of forgiveness.

 

Our next example comes from Jacobís life as well after he was renamed Israel.

 

Genesis 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more.6 So he said to them, "Please hear this dream which I have dreamed:7 "There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf."8 And his brothers said to him, "Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

 

Jacobís favoritism and Josephís dreams caused his brothers to hate him, and they could not stand to be around him. As this familiar story continues, his brother plot against Joseph and they are going to kill him (Gen. 37:18). However, through Godís providential care some slave traders came by at that time, so they decided to sell their brother into slavery instead (Gen. 37. 25-28). To make a long story short, God blessed Joseph where ever he ended up, and eventually he was made second in command over Egypt after he interpreted the Pharaohís dream, which predicted seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Two years into the famine, Joseph saw his brothers once again and he considered taking revenge on them and keeping his younger brother Benjamin with him, but his were opened to how sorry his brothers were for what they did,

 

Genesis 45:3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph; does my father still live?" But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence.4 And Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come near to me." So they came near. Then he said: "I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.5 "But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.6 "For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.7 "And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.8 "So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.9 "Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph: "God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not tarry.10 "You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near to me, you and your children, your children's children, your flocks and your herds, and all that you have.11 "There I will provide for you, lest you and your household, and all that you have, come to poverty; for there are still five years of famine." '12 "And behold, your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my mouth that speaks to you.13 "So you shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that you have seen; and you shall hurry and bring my father down here."14 Then he fell on his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck.15 Moreover he kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and after that his brothers talked with him.

 

In this story we can see the consequences of Josephís brotherís actions. To be treated that way by your brothers must have hurt deeply, but when Joseph could see how sorry they were and could see how God used this circumstance to save his people (Gen. 50:19-21), he was able to forgive them. Again, we see tears of joy being shed as these brothers reconciled their difference. By the power of forgiveness, many lives were spared from the seven years of famine.

 

The New Testament also provides us with examples of the joy of forgiveness. Of course, the greatest examples come from Jesus and His ability to forgive us of our sins. As a precursor to His dying on the cross to making it possible for all to have forgiveness of their sin, we see several examples of Him forgiving the sins of individuals. One example will suffice:

 

Luke 7:36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat.37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil,38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner."40 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he said, "Teacher, say it."41 "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.42 "And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?"43 Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged."44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.45 "You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.46 "You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.47 "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little."48 Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"50 Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."

 

Put yourself in this womanís shoes. It should not be hard because we all know what it is like to be a sinner. She was disgusted with her sins and she humbled herself before Jesus and anointed His head with oil. She even used her hair to wipe her tears of sorry from Jesusí feet. This woman longed to be forgiven and to change her ways, and Jesus gave her that forgiveness.

 

I think all of us can understand what joy and relief she must have felt when she knew she had been forgiven of her sins. All we have to do is think back to when we obeyed the gospel and remember the feeling we felt once we died with Christ in baptism, had our sins washed away by His blood, and were raised up out of the watery grave of baptism as a child of God. Knowing that our sins are forgiven and we now have the promise of eternal life cannot do anything else but bring great joy to our lives. Weather we are being forgiven or giving forgiveness it should cause us great joy.

 

It is a lot easier to receive forgiveness than to give it, but we must learn to forgive. It will help motivate us to be more forgiving when we realize that the wrong someone does to us can never compare to the multitude of sins that we have committed against God. We never deserved Godís forgiveness, but He offers it to us because He loves us.

 

Romans 5:6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

 

If God can forgive us our sins, we should be willing to forgive those who repent of their sins. As Jesus taught His disciples:

 

Luke 17:3 "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.4 "And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him."

 

If we want to follow our master example, then we must train ourselves to forgive those who repent of their wrongs. When we do, it will make us feel better and allow us to begin the healing process from the injustice done to us.

 

We are also warned of what will happen of we do not give our forgiveness to those who repent:

 

Matthew 6:14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.15 "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

The last thing we should want it to lose the ability to be forgiven by God, which is why it is imperative that we learn to forgive others and to find joy in doing so.

 

The Bible is full of examples of forgiveness and the benefits that come from it, but the examples I have given should be enough to convince you of the importance of giving and receiving forgiveness and the joy it brings. We should never allow ourselves not to forgive those who do us wrong when they repent because when we do, God will not forgive us. Also, to hold to grudge and never want to forgive will slowly eat away at your sanity and will continue you to make you miserable. So, let us learn to embrace the power of forgiveness and joy that it brings. I close with words of Paul:

 

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.