There are a few people in my life that have really hurt me. Some of them were trusted friends, coworkers, and even family. Whomever they are something they said or did cut into me incredibly deep. Their actions made me feel such anger and sorrow that for a time it seemed like those feelings would forever be a part of my life. That I would always be faking a smile, or laughing to cover up my desire to weep.
But over time even the greatest of betrayals began to fade in my memory. I found that as I processed my feelings and reflected on events my emotions began to settle down. I stopped feeling depressed and angry all the time. I found myself thinking about those people and what they did less and less until finally one day I wasn’t thinking about them at all.
I had let go of all my anger, all my sorrow, all of those feelings of hurt. Or so I thought, until I saw those people again.
Have you ever run into someone who really hurt you months, years or even decades later? You thought you had put it all behind you but seeing that person again brings all of those feelings right back to the surface.
Here at Sackville United Baptist Church we have been studying the life of Joseph on Sunday mornings. Last Sunday we looked at Joseph as he found himself in this kind of situation. His brothers abused him and sold him into slavery. While he was slave he was falsely accused of a crime and thrown into jail. Worse still it seems like he was forgotten about doomed to live rest of his life incarcerated. But in a sudden turnaround he was called before the Pharaoh and made the prime minister of Egypt.
Since then 9 years have gone by and his brothers have traveled to Egypt to buy food supplies because there is a severe famine in the area. His brothers asked Joseph, whom they didn’t recognize to buy food. Joseph recognized them instantly and he had to decide what he would do.
When we are faced with the people who have hurt us we always have two choices. We can seek to get even or we offer forgiveness. We can seek justice, or offer grace. We can seek vengeance or offer reconciliation. Joseph decided to offer forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation.
Centuries later when Jesus taught what has come to be known as the Lord’s Prayer he included this line
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
Jesus taught us if we want forgiveness, we must become forgiving. Is this easy? No. But holding on to anger, sorrow, and hatred only harms ourselves. We stay stuck. For us to really move forward, to really heal we must forgive.
This is not to make light of your hurts, or mine. To forgive is not to excuse and say what the person did doesn’t matter, it is to find the strenght to let go of the pain they caused.
I think Mahatma Gandhi said it best when he said;
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
**This post is a much altered version of the sermon I gave at Sackville United Baptist Church on June 9th 2013. You can listen to the full sermon here.**