It’s a controversial thought and idea but I believe there is truth in it that needs to be probed. I believe forgiveness has levels. I think we can hang on to “conditional” forgiveness that is not complete… it does not lead to complete freedom. I believe it is possible to come to terms with an injury caused by someone else; even coming to the point of beginning to “forget” the injury. But it’s not complete until something else happens. Allow me to explain.
When Joseph’s brothers betrayed him… sold him out of an empty cistern to a caravan of nomads who sold him in Egypt… Joseph began another kind of journey. This journey was not one marked by geography. His journey was into the dark cave of unforgiveness. I believe it is true that Joseph spent two years in an Egyptian jail to learn how to forgive his brothers.
The image of being “imprisoned” by unforgiveness is very biblical. This is exactly the picture Jesus painted in Matthew 18. We are our own jailers when we won’t forgive. Forgiveness is the key that throws the door open wide. But Joseph’s schooling in forgiveness did not end when his prison sentence did. He had to first face down the now decades-older and guilt-imprinted faces of his brothers.
Now Joseph stood before them, not a terrified teenager about to be abandoned, but as second in command to the most powerful man on earth! And had he wanted, Joseph could have immediately executed these brothers who had brought him so much pain.
But he didn’t. He had learned the secret of forgiveness. He “let them off the hook” though he was not finished with the experience. You see, he had not totally forgiven them. He had forgiven to the point of deciding not to get even, though he could have and no one would have known and no one would have blamed him. But he forgave, and then went one step further into total forgiveness:
He blessed them. We read this compelling account in Genesis 50, as he declared, “You meant this against me for evil, but God meant it for good.” (Gen 50:20) He reassured and blessed these brothers who had cursed and abused him. That’s what Jesus did as well when He prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them…” and then shed His own blood for those who hated Him without cause.
We, too, find the path to total forgiveness and total freedom when we learn to forgive from our hearts…
…and bless the ones who cursed us.
FOR MEDITATION: Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you…. Luke 6:28
FOR REFLECTION: There is a hard law. When an injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.