(Presented by Lisa Bishop)

Have you ever found it difficult to forgive someone? I’m guessing the answer is, “yes.” The ability to forgive, especially when you have been betrayed, mistreated, or are the victim of a heinous act can seem impossible at times. Forgiving someone when you have been deeply hurt takes courage. Courage is, “The ability to face and overcome fear while prioritizing a greater objective. It is not the absence of fear but rather the determination to act despite its presence, guided by a strong sense of purpose and a commitment to achieving a higher good.”

So, what does overcoming fear have to do with forgiveness? When someone has caused harm or hurt in our lives, we may find forgiveness difficult because we fear if we forgive them that person will in some way be off the hook for their actions. Or perhaps if we forgive, we fear that will invalidate the unsubstantiated pain someone has caused us. But when you have the courage to forgive, you are overcoming that fear for a greater objective and the greater objective is to refuse to allow unforgiveness to cause bitterness and to extend the same grace to others as Jesus extends to you for your misgivings. I know that can be hard to hear but it’s the Gospel.

I was listening to a book on forgiveness the other day and it was convicting. I squirmed a bit but also concurred with what the author was saying, even though it was hard. The author talked about how forgiveness is the absence of self-righteousness. That we tend to have no objectivity for ourselves in our own misgivings and when we see ourselves as we really are, we will realize that we are just as capable of committing any sin that others commit. I don’t want to believe that, but I will sit with it long enough to see what truth God wants to reveal to me and I invite you to do the same.

The truth is, we are saved only by God’s intervening grace. When we choose to have the courage to forgive, we don’t exact payment from other people because God didn’t exact payment from us. He gave his one and only Son to die on the cross and take on the penalty for our sins. Jesus’ ultimate forgiveness is an example for us.

When I think of an astounding example of forgiveness I think of Joseph whose brothers, out of extreme jealousy and animosity towards him, plotted to kill him in the wilderness. Ultimately Joseph’s life was spared, but he did end up getting sold into slavery in Egypt. While Joseph was eventually named supervisor of the high-ranking Egyptian Potiphar’s household, Joseph’s life was not smooth sailing. Over the course of the months ahead, he would be falsely accused of seducing Potiphar’s wife and thrown in jail and forgotten about for years until he was released and restored to a position of authority over Egypt.

He endured a lot of pain and hardship but ultimately Joseph forgives his brothers for their evil doings and all of the distress it caused him. In Genesis 50:19-21 he says, “But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”

Joseph was clearly guided by a commitment to achieve a higher good, demonstrating the ultimate courage to forgive. Who is God calling you to courageously forgive? Ask him to show you and help you. Submit your hurt to him and thank him for the grace he extends to you.