In today's sermon, we talked about forgivness.
What's the hardest thing you've ever had to forgive? How long did it take? Or are you still working on it? Are your even trying? Maybe not. Maybe the pain is so great, you can't imagine ever forgiving.
Can I tell you a story? A young man named Joseph was viciously attacked by his brothers, who planned to kill him. At the last minute, they decided to sell him into slavery. He was taken far from home and forced to serve an Egyptian solider.
It gets worse. The soldier's wife falsely accused Joseph of attempted rape, and he was thrown into jail, where he spent years of his life.
It gets worse. While in jail, Joseph did a favor for a high ranking official, and asked in return that the official speak to Pharaoh and try to get him released. The official took the favor, and then forgot all about Joseph. He spent two more years in prison.
Later in life, through a miraculous turn of events, Joseph was released from jail and went on to become the Prime Minister of Egypt. And that was when he ran into his brothers, the ones who had attacked him and sold him into slavery. He hadn't seen them for 22 years, and they didn't even recognize him.
He was the second most powerful man in Egypt, and he could have done anything he wanted to them -- death, imprisonment, slavery, torture And who would have blamed him? Didn't he have a right to be bitter? Didn't he have a right to revenge, or at least to justice?
Instead of retaliation, Joseph forgave them. He said, "And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God." (Genesis 45:5-8)
Joseph didn't excuse his brothers behavior. But he did seek to understand his life's story within God's greater plan, and he saw how God had used his pain and suffering to bring about something good. He chose to see his hardships within the greater story of God's sovereignty and redemptive design. That didn't make what his brothers had done OK. But it made Joseph OK. He could sleep nights with a life that looked forward, instead of living with bitter memories and plans of revenge.
Does Joseph remind you of anyone? As he hung dying on the cross, Jesus cried out, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34). And how about Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who as he was being put to death prayed, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." (Acts 7:60)?
What's the hardest thing you've ever had to forgive? Have you? It can happen, With Jesus help it can be possible to find freedom from past wrongs. His death and resurrection made it possible not only for us to be forgiven, but also forgiving.