As we Jewish followers of Messiah close the book of Genesis during this Shabbat on Saturday, I marvel at the Christmas carol I remember from my Catholic upbringing:
‘God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, for unto you a Savior is born this Christmas day… bringing tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy… bringing tidings of comfort and joy.’
The Other Side of Forgiveness
Last week, we spoke of the providential move of God worldwide that keeps Jewish families reading about the restoration of Joseph to his family during the Christmas holidays in America. In this last chapter of Genesis, when Jacob blessed all his twelve sons along with Joseph’s sons also, we learn the ‘other’ side of forgiveness. There is an ‘other’ side of forgiveness? Yes, the comfort and assurance of KNOWING you are forgiven. Giving and receiving forgiveness takes two witnesses – the giver and the receiver. A human heart cannot receive what the human brain cannot perceive. I truly believe that the space and time it takes for the words of others to penetrate our flesh is a journey. The human heart cannot be unlocked, only the door to the heart can be unlocked. The key to unlocking the door to the human heart rests ultimately in the hand of God.
In a creation fueled by the love of God, the human heart is mere flesh that can be wounded with words, broken by tragedy and hardened by rejection. Whether by our own choices or the behavior of others, the results are the same. Thankfully, God made a way for us EACH to become whole – and God gives us the GIFT of becoming an agent of His healing for others around us – including our own blood family.
After Joseph’s father died, and his brothers have joined him in mourning, the FULLNESS of forgiveness is described in detail. I want to walk this our for you as a pattern so that you can be ready when you see your loved ones this season and old hurts of the past try to creep up and steal your joy.
- A beloved parent is no longer there
- Some of the adult children commiserate about the past and began to be afraid of repercussions
- They ‘charge’ the one they hurt and explain it was their father’s charge to beg for forgiveness
- They know they can’t change the past and don’t have any resources to offer, but themselves, as payment
If you don’t think this still happens in families in America, since slavery is outlawed, take note. Who slaves in your family? Who is the one always giving, always trying to keep the offended parties happy in the same room after sibling rivalry or divorce or drug abuse has left so much pain between family members? I know, I have been an over-giver, a slave to the dream of family harmony. Can I tell you a secret?
Forgiveness from God to heal your family is not based on your hard work serving them and ‘keeping the peace.’ The debt for all your family’s past failures has already been forgiven by the coming of Baby Yeshua over 2000 years ago. Yeshua is the gift of forgiveness – given before hand by God who knows the end from the beginning and knows everything in your heart – even in this precious moment right now.
Forgiveness is a Journey
Forgiveness is a journey that starts as a baby and develops in secret and becomes public only after you ACT on it! That is why the Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the Book of ACTS. Yeshua died on the cross as the Passover lamb for the whole world. According to the 3500 year old truth of the Bible, blood is the God-ordained currency for forgiveness. Once your debt was paid by God himself enrobed in flesh – and you personally give Him the authority to forgive you – His sacrificial blood circulates through your entire body cleaning the roots of evil inclination in your brain and the routes of evil choices empowered by the life pumping through your human heart. The key to forgiveness is believing –just like Abram – that you are forgiven by God. That makes you CHOSEN –you CHOOSE to believe God knew you beforehand and gave you a way of escape. Wait! Weren’t those Joseph’s FIRST words to his long lost brothers when he revealed who he was? Exactly!
And yet, even though Joseph told them God had taken care of him THEN – they were still afraid of Joseph even after years of prosperity under his watch care! HEAR Joseph’s heart as he responds to them after their father is gone. ‘Don’t be afraid. For am I in the place of God? Yes, you yourselves planned evil against me. God planned it for good, in order to bring about what it is this day – to preserve the lives of many people. So now, don’t be afraid. I myself will provide food for you and your little ones.” So he reassured them, speaking kindly to them. You can find the entire pattern in Genesis 50: 15-21.
Tips to forgiving others
Here are some of my favorite takeaways about forgiving others:
- I can’t give what I don’t have.
- I can’t ever do enough to make guilty people feel forgiven
- Forgiven people aren’t afraid to remember the past because they see God there
- My acts of love and mercy can only cover an other’s sin temporarily, never pay it off
- Forgiveness truly comes from God alone
- Shared grief can be relief when guilt is abandoned for forgiveness – don’t waste the present
- Forgiving means comforting, and reassuring, and moving forward, at the same time.
I am so grateful to know that forgiveness is NOT something I have to make happen for someone else. The God of Israel is always faithful to provides an escape at the beginning – and reassurance at the end –of every story of healing broken hearts. Forgiveness is a journey to restore the human relationships – with God first, then with each other, too!
And, make no mistake, the entire Book of Genesis is filled with human frailty. Did you realize that hiding forgiveness in an innocent baby, and then hiding resurrection in an empty tomb, just has to be a‘miracle in motion’ to believe in the first place? How else would almost the entire world know about such an unbelievable story for 2000 years – if it weren’t true? SPREAD GOOD TIDINGS OF COMFORT AND JOY!