The story of forgiveness is as old as the word itself even though it is the number one healer in the world it has eluded many people and generations have been wiped out without a trace because people simply refused to forgive. Bitterness and envy has been a killer of millions from the Rwandan genocide to Kosovo ethnic cleansing, Unforgiveness has killed over a million people and thousand others are suffering from its demonic claws.
One way or the other we have been hurt by a brother or a sister, a friend and most especially an enemy, I think Bonhoeffer the German preacher who opposed Nazi rule in German said “that if the enmity is taken away from you and your enemy there would be nothing to hate any more”. The problem most people are having today against his enemy is a issue where one part has refuse to forgive their by creating a cauldron, of misunderstand and misjudgment between people.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it was necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them! But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” The issue confronting us today is that we have been quick in looking at other people sin falling to realize that we our selves are the main cause of situation. The fear must of us have is that in cutting out hearts from the evil of unforgiveness that we fill that we have been taken for a ride.
I glean focal points form the story in Gen 37 – 50 about the story of a man called Jacob and his twelve sons, where envy, bitterness and the power of forgiveness holds strong lesson points to God’s divine plan in our lives even when things seem dark and gloomy.
The Canker of Bitterness (Genesis 37:3-36)
Bitterness is a very strong fuel which ignites our desire to revenge those who have offended us, like Joseph who was the younger of his brothers, he hurt his brother deeply by insinuating that he was going to be the head while his brother Reuben, was still the head son. Envy is like a switch it turns on the most innocent of all people into killers and rapist. It will eat your peace away like a worm and drive the sanest person into a lunatic.
No one has said when someone hates you it dose not pain, maybe we may not be able to remove the scars which they leave behind when they hurt you. Still the truth still remains if we let bitterness leads us we will end up dying a thousand times, as Nelson Mandela said “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will die”. So many people have drank the wine and eaten the Loco weed of bitterness when they walk they stagger and stumble like the alcoholic in the streets, they are gradually running into a cliff of an endless abyss and because they are drank, they are never aware of the danger they are facing. Shout out loud at them and they still will head towards their end blinded and lonely.
Revenge is best served cold, many people say, in wait for their enemy to come and step on their toes so that as we say in the local translations “I will give it to him”. When you give it to the person will it change the past or make the present better.
As William Blake says in his poem “Poison Tree”
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,
And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
Reason to Blame (Gens. 39-40)
When we lose a loved one, when some hurt affects our lives the worse statement you can hear is “The Lord gives and the Lord takes” well seriously may I ask those who pedal this statement with blatant disregard for the person feelings, is God so wicked to cause us pain or have we forgotten Ezekiel 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked;
When you a young parent loss a little child, when upon all your hard work life has played the fool on you, when you have lost a love despite your prayers, when a young lady after living a duplicitous life has turn from her ways and his look for child to hold in her hands and after all efforts it proves nothing . It turns your mind to the fact that who is to blame for this problem, am I the one who cause this to myself, granted you may have been the person who has brought that pain but will God punish those who turn from their wickedness? We cannot find a particular source for our pain, the evil that has befallen upon us we turn to the metaphysical conditions like witches, past sins, devils (all these things may have a hand in your present condition) , others blame God. When we do not find someone to blame forgiveness becomes impossible but the truth of the issue is this blaming someone does not take away the pains, sometimes forgiveness has to come when still there is no one to blame.
Joseph could have blamed his father, his brothers, his master’s wife or God for his current predicament yet in his forgiveness he found the power to overcome his troubles and became the head of the prison. As Martin Luther King Snr said “Forgiveness is not a conditional act but a permanent attitude” and even thought “I am trapped outside, inside am free”. Prison would only limit physically, blaming would not take away your pain.
Forgiveness and Justice (Gen. 41 37-46)
Some of us think that when someone offends us and we seek for justice then everything will be ok, wrong I agree with William Shakespeare in saying “ Thought justice be thy plea, consider this that in the course of justice none of us should see salvation. We do pray for mercy and that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy”.
We can chose to send all of our time pursuing those who have offended us instead of doing productive things like Joseph after been called Zapphnath-Paaneah the second most powerful man in Egypt and only the Pharaoh was higher than him he would have been right to seek for justice from Potifus wife or arrest his brother with a whole legion of Egyptian soldiers. While he will be his duties were before him. Most of us today send hours, days, weeks, months, years in the seeking justice in taking what they say is rightfully theirs and end up becoming so poor that when they receive the justice they deserve they have no more reason to celebrate the victory. If Joseph should have pursue justice then the plan God has established for him will not have come to pass in the lives of his family and generation.
Where there is justice there is no peace, there is a song I think by Peter Tosh which says “everyone is crying out for peace none is crying out for justice, I do not need no peace all I cry for his equal rights and justice” all this song said is if he had justice, peace will not matter, ask the victims of the Rwandan genocide or the blacks who suffered under white that did anyone think that the justice the person received was it comparable to the pains that was given to them or those whose children were killed by rapist or those who lost their arms in Sierra Leone did justice or equal rights bring anything to them. The story is told of father Christian de Chergé who was beheaded by an Islamic sect called the GIA in Algeria in a letter before his death said:
If it should happen one day – and it could be today – that I become a victim of the terrorism that now seems to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to Algeria; and that they accept that the sole Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I would like, when the time comes, to have a space of clearness that would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who will strike me down. I could not desire such a death; it seems to me important to state this: How could I rejoice if the Algerian people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder? My death, obviously, will appear to confirm those who hastily judged me naïve or idealistic: “Let him tell us now what he thinks of it!” But they should know that…for this life lost, I give thanks to God. In this “thank you,” which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, my last-minute friend who will not have known what you are doing…I commend you to the God in whose face I see yours. And may we find each other, happy “good thieves” in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.
The only closure one will receive is the one which he or she has given instead of justice. For during the judgment day forgiveness will not have a place in it therefore seek forgiveness and leave justice alone.
Forgiveness in our Everyday Lives (Gen 45)
A very special friend once said to me “forgiveness made easy”. The easy way to face forgiveness is one in which we deal with the problem day by day, not waiting for special occasion to make our forgiveness known, each time someone offends you, you are faced with the tormenting spirits, they play the mind game upon us each day and showing us how much the person has taken us for a rider, how he has played on our intelligence.
One of the most painful thing about love is “To love at all is to be vulnerable. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. C S Lewis” everyday someone will hurt us but the truth about this is we must let go of the past and take a constructive look into the future. In our homes husbands will offend their wives by their insensitivity to her feelings, wife will disregard the hardwork their husbands are putting into the family. Quarrels at home, school, in the office is waiting to face as we leave, if you have made up your mind to Love and live with someone then we will be faced with the duty of seek forgiveness each day, while were give forgiveness to other we must also be willing to accept forgiveness from those who offend us. Forgiveness is a two way passage, with a low level beam; therefore anyone who is willing to enter in have to use both doors while bending low to enter.
Fyodor Dostoevsky said, “At some thoughts one stands perplexed – especially at the sight of men’s sin – and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve to do that, once and for all, you can subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvelously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it”. Humility is the keyword when are forgiving every day, this is the only way to resolve the problem of Unforgiveness in our marriages, with our children our bosses and most of all ourselves.
Mother Teresa said People ask me what advice I have for a married couple struggling in their relationship. I always answer: pray and forgive. And to young people from violent homes, I say: pray and forgive. And again, even to the single mother with no family support: pray and forgive. Prayer will be the only door way to everyday forgiveness send time in prayer send time forgiving and peace like a river will overcome your sorrows, your problems will become a beautiful wonderful relationship of laughs, joy, peace, gentleness, love, longsuffering and patience.
Forgiveness and the Holy Spirit.
Where there is forgiveness the Holy Spirit dwells, as his name implies Holy it means that anything which has to do with profanity has no place for the Holy Spirit. The great commission had been given to preach the gospel, drive out demons and pick up snakes but there is a prologue to all this, before anyone can begin to possess these graces or spiritual gifts he must first forgive the he will be forgiven i.e. receive grace from God to become a child of God. As Pharaoh said to his people “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”
The Holy Spirit is the teacher of all things that comes from God but if there is no forgiveness his presence would be but a shadow which will elude us always. When there is a Christian group which does not have the presence of the Holy Spirit working within it there also the presence for unrepentant sinners who have not receive forgiveness let alone be able to forgive others. The underline fact still remains if the Holy Spirit will work in us then we must be willing to forgive and also receive forgiveness “Forgive us this day (*not month or week or year), our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” Jesus Christ.
The Rippling Effect of Forgiveness (Gen. 46)
The effects of forgiveness has long been felt especially for people who have actually forgiven a brother who serious injured him in Rwanda today Hutus are marrying Tutsi’s again, there are now neighbors, friends, colleagues, business partners. Without forgiveness we will be faced with and endless and senseless killing, like in old Chinese films we watch when I use to watch when I was a kid, story is always the same someone kills the “toughs” master who we call the “Kill” so he trains and goes to kill him. Unforgiveness will start a chain of hate which will never be broken until someone decides to forgive a friend who has wronged him. We will still sacrifice our children our husbands, woman will be displaced. Economies will be strengthening only if someone decides today to forgive is brother. The family feud which has rendered children who have no had in this issue hating each other till their death beds.
Today if someone will take up the initiative to say please forgive me or I forgive you, your heart pains, sleepless nights will end forever. “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in sight of all. Men will give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long…with all looking on and applauding. But active love is labor and fortitude” Fyodor Dostoevsky.
It going to be difficult it’s going to be hard, sometimes the person to forgive may be dead, he or she does not what you to hear your apology or is not remorseful of the offense he has done but still do your part to forgive the person and leave the rest for the Lord.
Forgiveness and Transformation
Dose forgiveness transform us? A question which is evident form the story a borrowed to illustrate he this are the words of Mr. Jean Paul when asked why he forgave his best friend who killed his whole family during the Rwandan genocide he said these words
It’s a good thing I didn’t find Vincent before I did. I had never harmed another person, but in my head, it was what I planned to do. I was going to kill him. And if I hadn’t been able to do it myself, I was going to ask someone else to do it for me. That’s where hatred leads: you end up becoming a killer yourself, even if you don’t have any idea how to kill. When I did finally forgive Vincent, he had trouble believing me. He said to his wife, “How on earth can he do this? After what I did?” He was sure it was a trick, a political ploy. But his wife told him, “I have talked with Samputu. If you don’t accept his forgiveness, that’s your problem. But let me tell you one thing. It’s not him who’s forgiving you. It’s God. It’s grace.” In the end, Vincent believed me, and this brought about a remarkable thing.
When forgiveness came a man who was willing to kill is brother, now can forgive him and let his children play with his friends children happily without them knowing anything.
Jesus in Mat.18 vs. 21- 35 tells us about the effects of Unforgiveness “send him to the tormentors” if we do not forgive then brother and sister our lives will become a perpetual hell while we look for redemption and not find it. Some today are living under the shackles of Unforgiveness and till they realize that freedom is in forgiveness then liberty will not be granted them. My closing thoughts come from this book Why Forgive? By Johann Christoph Arnold: Forgiveness is power. It frees us from every constraint of the past, and helps us overcome every obstacle. It can heal both the forgiver and the forgiven. In fact, it would change the world if we allowed it to. Each of us holds the keys to forgiveness in our hands. It remains to us whether or not we choose to use them.