Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. (NIV) Genesis 45:3-5
Joseph was betrayed and sold into slavery by his own brothers. He was falsely accused and imprisoned for what he did not do. He was hurt by those closest to him. Unfortunately, even those who love us will hurt us also. Genuine forgiveness is the first step when you are hurt. Unfortunately, even though Christians have experienced the greatest forgiveness in the world by God, we often fail to extend that forgiveness to others. When you refuse to forgive, you sin (James 4:17). It is that plain and simple!
As a Christian, when you fail to forgive another, you show that:
- You have no gratitude for God’s forgiveness of you (Matthew 18:32-33)
- You are not following the example of sacrificial love that God demonstrated through Jesus (Ephesians 4:32; 1 John 4:10-11)
- You are choosing to disobey God’s Word by holding on to a wrong suffered – or in other words, you are harboring a grudge (1 Corinthians 13:5; Ephesians 4:32).
The consequences of unforgiveness are steep:
- For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (NIV) Matthew 6:14-15
- When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. (NIV) 1 Corinthians 11:32
- And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” . . .No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (NIV) Hebrews 12:5-6; 11
But, you may be saying, “You don’t know what he or she did to me! I don’t feel like forgiving!” It’s not a matter of how you feel. . .you can and must obey Scripture and forgive others as God has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13)! It’s not a question of if you feel like it. . . it’s a matter of obedience.