How could he forgive? Why should he forgive? It was the ultimate betrayal. He was stabbed in the back by people whom he trusted. They were family who plotted and schemed to kill him because they were jealous of him. But instead of killing him, they sold their brother like an animal to some foreigners headed to another country. They even made money off of their betrayal, and didn't have to deal with the guilt of having killed him. Also, they probably weren't concerned about what would happen to him, as long as he wouldn't be bothering them anymore with his ridiculous dreams of being better than and above them. No longer would they have to suffer through their father's favoritism toward their younger brother. How could Joseph of the Old Testament ever forgive his brothers for the horrible thing they did to him? Why should he even give a second thought toward forgiving them? It was because, no matter what, Joseph knew that whatever others did to him or tried to do to him, that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob his father was for him. God was for him and He is for you and me.
In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter went to Jesus and asked Him, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times!" Actually, Peter was being quite gracious here when he said seven times and might well have anticipated that Jesus would have complimented him on his willingness to forgive so many times. It was such that the Jewish rabbis at one time taught that a person was to be forgiven 3 times, but no more than 3 times. Peter was going the second and third mile in forgiving. However, he made one mistake. He measured himself by a human standard rather than by God's standard. So Jesus perhaps shocks everyone by saying, "Not seven times, but seventy-seven times." It might also be translated, "seventy times seven times." Whatever the case, it was way beyond what Peter was thinking and the point was that we should always be ready to forgive.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you." In light of the forgiveness that we have received from God, and considering the enormous debt that we owed God, for the Christian, giving forgiveness is expected. Forgiving others is truly a Christian grace. In an indirect way, when we forgive someone who hurt us, wronged us or betrayed us, we are passing on God's grace to them, for God has forgiven us so very much.
I John 4:18 tells us that we love because God first loved us. In a sense, we forgive because God first forgave us.
A question that one might have in taking up the subject of forgiveness is, "What if we choose not to forgive?" Well, the bitterness and resentment that we can carry around within us towards people who have hurt us, seems to do us a lot more harm than it does them. It can be like an infection that spreads throughout our whole life. After my Mom died in 2000, we found tucked away in her well-used Bible a newspaper article. It was yellowed and dated November 30, 1984. The article talked about the pain that we inflict upon ourselves when we don't forgive. God desires that we give forgiveness so that we can be set free from a prison of bitterness. We can leave that person in God's hands for Him to deal with. There is definite freedom and healing in our giving forgiveness.
How can we forgive? Why should we forgive? We can and should forgive because we ourselves have experienced from God a forgiveness that covers all our sins, and cost Him the life of His Son on a cross. God's forgiveness and grace towards us leads to our forgiveness and grace towards others. By the grace of God and in the power of His Holy Spirit, we can forgive.
Living in God's Forgiveness,