17 Jun How Do You Know You’ve Totally Forgiven?
Genesis 45:1-8 – Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 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. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”
This week, I was traveling to preach out of state, so I was able to get a dear friend, Dr. R.T. Kendall to come teach his life message based on his best-selling book Total Forgiveness at The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, AZ where I have the honor of being the senior pastor. Now in his 80’s, he’s what I aspire to be in about 30 years – still preaching the Bible, holding hands and praying with his wife in their study, and doing 21 pushups a day, since he said 20 just wasn’t enough.
Many years ago, he and his wife went through a season in life that seemed insurmountable, and, out of that painful season, he wrote one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read – Total Forgiveness – based on the story of Joseph in the last chapters of Genesis. In the book, he gives seven ways you know you’ve totally forgiven someone, and I want to share those below as this resource has been a help to our family and his sermon at Trinity was impactful and life-changing for those who heard it.
- You’ve forgiven when you don’t need to talk about it. He says that you can tell one other person for therapeutic reasons, and you can of course talk to God about it (Psalm 142:1), but you don’t need to share with anyone who will listen. In Joseph’s case, he sends everyone out of the room before he reunites with his brothers (Genesis 45:1).
- You’ve forgiven when you don’t want them to be intimidated. Joseph sees his brothers were afraid of him and he draws them in to show them love and mercy (Genesis 45:4).
- You’ve forgiven when you can set them free from guilt. This includes forgiving ourselves and forgiving others. Joseph tells his brothers not to “be distressed or angry with yourselves” (Genesis 45:5).
- You’ve forgiven when you can let them save face. Instead of rubbing their nose in it, you give them a way out so they can still preserve their dignity and self-esteem. In Genesis 45:7-8, Joseph tells his brothers that it was God who orchestrated the entire happenings of his life, not them. He lets them off the hook.
- You’ve forgiven when you can protect them from their greatest fear. Forgiving someone totally means they don’t have to admit what they’ve done if they don’t want to. In Joseph’s case, it would’ve been his brothers’ greatest fear to have to tell their aging father the truth about Joseph. He told his brothers exactly what to say in Genesis 45:9-13 and nowhere in these verses does it include them telling him the truth.
- You’ve forgiven when you can make a lifelong commitment. Total forgiveness is a life sentence. You have to forgive today, tomorrow, next week, next year, and as long as you live.
- You’ve forgiven when you can pray for them to be blessed. This is the especially tough one. You may think you’ve forgiven someone and then put them out of your mind, but can you pray for truly good and blessed things to happen to them?
Which of these steps is the hardest? For those you feel like you’ve forgiven, can you answer yes to each of these? Pray for God to give you strength to do so and continue to forgive each day.