Can you imagine forgiving your siblings for selling you into slavery? Frankly, I can’t! I have to admit, I live a choice life where the grievances I have amassed seem trivial by comparison. There are some atrocities you hear about and wonder: Is it even humanly possible to forgive and love the enemy?! But then there are those like Joseph, who despite monumental suffering, have been able to forgive and, consequently, laid claim to new and abundant lives.
Jesus is very clear, we are to find a way to love our enemies, to do good to those who hurt us and to forgive. Our spiritual lives will be directly affected by our ability or inability to forgive. So, here is what I have been learning from my experience with forgiveness:
- It is impossible to love without forgiveness.
- Forgiveness is really hard work and it seems to have its own timeline.
- Forgiveness is definitely not about forgetting.
- At the heart of forgiveness is sacrificing a justified hurt. So forgiveness is neither just nor fair.
- Forgiveness involves grief and loss, and so usually means there are a lot of tears.
- Forgiveness does not mean starting over again but starting in a new—and sometimes wiser, safer and smarter—place.
- When you are the one who has offended, no one is interested in your intentions. It is all about the listening.
- Forgiveness is a process that is ongoing and forever.
- When it goes well and there can be reconciliation, it is totally exhilarating!
- When it seems too big, ask God to do some of the heavy lifting.
Bishop Susan, Niagara, has recommended The Book of Forgivingby Desmond and Mpho Tutu for Lenten reflection. I will definitely be engaging in this book with some spiritual friends. And on love goes….
LUKE 6:27-38 Jesus said, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
GENESIS 45:3-11, 15 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 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 delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there – since there are five more years of famine to come – so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’” And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
PSALM 37:1-12, 41-42 Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; do not be jealous of those who do wrong. For they shall soon wither like the grass, and like the green grass fade away. Put your trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed on its riches. Take delight in the Lord, and he shall give you your heart’s desire. Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, and he will bring it to pass. He will make your righteousness as clear as the light and your just dealing as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, the one who succeeds in evil schemes. Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil. For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait upon the Lord shall possess the land. In a little while the wicked shall be no more; you shall search out their place, but they will not be there. But the lowly shall possess the land; they will delight in abundance of peace. But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord will help them and rescue them; he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them, because they seek refuge in him.