Christian Forgiveness
How to Forgive

One of our Inspirational Devotions

photo courtesy of Godo-Godaj sunrise

Learn Christian forgiveness

You never know how forgiving a person you really are until someone wrongs you. Can you relate? It seems that in my life something happens almost every week that begs for forgiveness. I thought I was making progress until I found myself repeating a story about someone who had wronged me years ago. I realized that I had not fully let it go.

Forgiving is hard

The Bible teaches that God has totally forgiven us. He is willing to let the past be past. Believing this truth is the only way you will have the ability to forgive others and yourself. Learning what Christian forgiveness means and how to forgive are probably the most difficult lessons for a follower of Jesus to grasp.

Joseph and his brothers

The story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 is a classic story about forgiveness. At age seventeen, Joseph's brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt. In Egypt Joseph was unfairly sent to prison for several years. But God protected Joseph and enabled him to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph that he made him Prime Minister of Egypt right on the spot.

Joseph learned how to forgive

planting trees

After twenty-two years had passed, Joseph's brothers came to Egypt looking for grain. When the time was right, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and forgave them. He held no grudges. He told them that what they intended for evil, God meant for good. In his excellent book Total Forgiveness, R. T. Kendall teaches us several lessons from the life of Joseph and his brothers:

photo courtesy of usfs region 5

  • Keep quiet about what they did
  • To ensure privacy, Joseph had everyone leave the room (Genesis 45:1). Why? No one in Egypt needed to know what happened. It isn't necessary to tell people who aren't a part of either the problem or the solution. People often tell negative things about others only to punish and get even with their offenders. When you've been wronged, you have to decide who to tell. Tell the people that can help with the problem or solution.

  • Put them at ease
  • Joseph could have made his brothers acknowledge his power. He could have reminded them of his dreams and their disbelief. But Joseph did not want them to be afraid of him (Genesis 45:3).

  • Let them save face
  • Saving face means preserving one's dignity. To ease their minds, Joseph gave an explanation for his suffering. It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. . .so then it was not you that sent me here, but God. (Genesis 45:5-8).

  • Continue the commitment to forgive year after year
  • After Jacob died Joseph reassured his brothers of his kindness (Genesis 50:19-21). The commitment to forgive is a choice that we will have to renew tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. Satan's favorite strategy is to get into our thought life and tempt us to be bitter. Love pursues a lifestyle of forgiveness.

    God often works through our pain.

    Discussion questions for your Sunday School class or small group

    1. Why is it hard to practice Christian forgiveness?

    2. Does forgiveness eliminate consequences for sinful behavior?

    3. When is it appropriate or inappropriate to talk about a person who has sinned against you?

    4. What lessons did you learn from Joseph's forgiveness?

    5. How does Joseph's attitude of God meant it for good help you deal with sin in the world?

    6. How does knowing that God has forgiven you help you forgive others?

    We have a whole chapter devoted to the subject of Christian forgiveness in What's Missing Inside You?

    Listen to two sermons to continue thinking about forgiveness: Imitating Christ's Acceptance and Becoming like Jesus.

    Author: Paul Schlieker

    Permission to reprint this Bible study worksheet in its totality is granted. For any reuse or distribution of our free Bible study materials author credit and web address is required.

    Paul Schlieker, Platinum Author

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