Joseph could no longer keep his composure in front of all his attendants, so he called out, “Send everyone away from me!”
I have had an interestingly frustrating few years learning the art of forgiveness. It seems so simple on the face of it: just accept what happened and then move beyond it. But it can be oh so difficult when we ourselves have been wronged or a loved one has been wronged. And, perhaps the most difficult person of all to forgive is ourselves.
As I’ve experienced opportunities to forgive and be forgiven, I’ve come to the conclusion that forgiveness, true, lasting forgiveness, is a supernatural thing. It’s not a thing we simply do or try harder at, rather it is something that happens in and through us as we submit more fully to the Lordship of Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s work in our life.
I think a simple mechanic for it might be: remember Jesus’ work for you, and then pray for the Spirit’s power to follow-through. When I’m convicted to forgive by the Holy Spirit and my first response is rejection of that conviction, I find that reflecting on Jesus’ work in me breaks my rebellion. I think of all the times I would have given up on myself, when I was not worth the hassle, when I simply rebelled to try to “hurt” God in some way, when there seemed like there was little hope, and then I remember that Jesus was well aware of all of them and died for me anyways. I’m struck that I can’t hate Jesus enough to run him off! Paul writes in Romans 5:8, “God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” STILL sinners! Think about that: here I am having been wronged by someone who is asking forgiveness and aiming to change and I’m ignoring it whereas I was literally STILL sinning against Jesus as he suffered and died for me. Surely his way is better?!
And then once I’m suitably broken in my wretchedness and shame for not doing for others (or myself) what Jesus did for me, I cry out to the Holy Spirit for the power to forgive. It doesn’t always come right away, but once it is asked for, the opportunity is on its way. And in that moment, it is the power of the Spirit that allows me to forgive by trusting Jesus with my identity and craving the restoration for my broken relationship with this individual in the way Jesus relentlessly restored my relationship with him.
Forgiveness is not easy, nor is it pleasant. But it is joyously miraculous. The Bible from Genesis 3-Revelation 22 is a story of restoration. We see God in a mighty way when relationships are restored; we bear witness to the world the truth of Jesus when relationships are restored. Who am I to avoid such a gift?