As part of our Legacy Series, we looked at Joseph’s first encounter with his brothers. After 25 years, he sees the men who sold him into slavery. He seems to have forgiven them and moved on, but this encounter would prove to be a test for his heart. On Sunday, we talked about the importance of forgiveness as an initial step toward healing.
Forgiveness is the key which unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Christian who helped Jews escape Nazi Germany and was imprisoned by Nazis. She often talked about how easy it had been to forgive German Nazis and yet how hard it was to forgive people close to her.
Many years later, after I had passed my eightieth birthday, an American friend came to visit me in Holland. As we sat in my little apartment in Baarn he asked me about those people from long ago who had taken advantage of me. “It is nothing,” I said a little smugly. “It is all forgiven.”
“By you, yes,” he said. “But what about them? Have they accepted your forgiveness?”
“They say there is nothing to forgive! They deny it ever happened. No matter what they say, though, I can prove they were wrong.” I went eagerly to my desk. “See, I have it in black and white! I saved all their letters and I can show you where….”
“Corrie!” My friend slipped his arm through mine and gently closed the drawer. “Aren’t you the one whose sins are at the bottom of the sea? Yet are the sins of your friends etched in black and white?”
For an astonishing moment I could not find my voice. “Lord Jesus,” I whispered at last, “who takes all my sins away, forgive me for preserving all these years the evidence against others! Give me grace to burn all the blacks and whites as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to Your glory.”
I did not go to sleep that night until I had gone through my desk and pulled out those letters—curling now with age—and fed them all into my little coal-burning grate. As the flames leaped and glowed, so did my heart. “Forgive us our trespasses,” Jesus taught us to pray, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In the ashes of those letters I was seeing yet another facet of His mercy. What more He would teach me about forgiveness in the days ahead I didn’t know, but tonight’s was good news enough. Forgiveness is the key which unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.
This last line gripped me. Forgiveness is the key which unlocks resentment, hatred, bitterness and selfishness. Now, what gripped me was not that this was true, but that all of these things are issues for the forgiver not the one who needs to be forgiven. In other words, when I refuse to forgive, I’m making myself a captive to these things rather than walking in freedom.
I wonder how many of us need that key to get out of shackles that bind us to bitterness and hatred? Forgiveness is that key.