It’s one thing to forgive, another to accept that forgiveness. Take the story of Joseph for example.
Joseph’s jealous brothers sell him into slavery and he gets a raw deal several times throughout his life. Thrown into prison, forgotten, wrongly accused, you name it. If I was Joseph, I would be yelling “God, really?! Are you kidding me?!” But he doesn’t. He continues to hold onto the “dreams” God has given him. Then in all makes sense. A leader in Egypt, Joseph has his opportunity. Save his family, save his people, and he does.
Fast forward many years, his brothers come to Joseph begging for food, for there is a famine in the land. They don’t know it is him. When the great unveiling happens the brothers are terrified. Joseph’s response (which blows my mind), “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.” Genesis 45:5. Whew! His bros must have be relieved. “Cool, Joe forgave us and now we get to eat. This is awesome!” Sorry, that is not in the Bible and from the text five chapters later not their hearts either.
The story continues with the reunion of Jacob, Joseph’s father to him and the blessing by Jacob of Joseph’s sons. A beautiful reunion and restoration of a family. Jacob, at age 147, can die in peace. He says “I never expected to see your face again and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” Genesis 48:11
After the death of their father, the brothers still have not received forgiveness. When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” Genesis 50:13 At this point, I wouldn’t blame Joseph for saying “You are right. You wicked, horrible excuses for siblings. Now that dad is gone, you can starve for all I care. Serves you right!” Again, Joseph stands on forgiveness and says “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20. Joseph gets it! Hebrews 8:12 says that He will forgive my wickedness and will remember my sins no more. God has removed my sins from me as far as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:12 And the verse that will forever keep me humble is Matthew 6:14 which says that if I forgive men when they sin against me then God will forgive me. BUT (oh, that’s a big but) if I don’t forgive others, God will not forgive me.
One of the things I am so grateful for in the lives of James and I is forgiveness on so many levels. God forgave me, so I could forgive James. James received Gods forgiveness so he could receive my forgiveness. James is in heaven because God forgave him. So, when well meaning friends ask me “How can you forgive James for all that he put you through?” I can smile and say “Cause God forgave me.”