Joseph Forgives Brothers • Devotion #6: 2 Corinthians 5:17
Debbie Kerr | Office Administrator
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
The first Bible verse I learned as a child is, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Born again believers in Jesus Christ, who have been forgiven of all their sins, should always have a forgiving spirit, right? If only it was that easy. If you have a pulse and are not living on a deserted island, I am pretty sure you deal with the issue of forgiveness. While it is possible and necessary, it requires a transformation from the inside out. That is what the Apostle Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 5:17. If we are now in Christ, we are a completely new creation; the old man has died, and the new man is in control. As believers, we are to take on the image and characteristics of Christ. Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. Is it just me, or does anyone else find it hypocritical that we have taken His gift of forgiveness and yet we often feel justified to withhold it from others?
The story of Joseph in Genesis is a great picture of true forgiveness. In fact, Joseph is known as a type of Christ. His story foretells what we will come to know as the grace Jesus has given to all who believe and receive His free gift of salvation. Joseph was severely mistreated by his jealous brothers, thrown into a well, sold into slavery, nearly killed and yet he never retaliated. His response to his brothers came as quite a surprise to them because they knew what they deserved, but instead of yielding his power and authority over them, he said to them, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 20:50a). He was able to see the bigger picture and put his own hurt and betrayal aside for the greater good, which was to obey and honor God. We never look more like Christ than when we forgive.
A few reasons why forgiveness is difficult is when the offense is repeated, or there is no apology offered. Deep wounds begin to form, and our hearts begin to harden. The natural tendency is to protect ourselves. This will result in a breakdown in the relationship. We begin to avoid, ignore, and slander. This progression leads to bitterness, resentment, anger, mistrust, and a whole list of toxic emotions and actions.
Jesus is the ultimate example of forgiveness. He was rejected, beaten, mocked, falsely accused, and killed. Yet, as He hung on a criminal’s cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The goal of forgiveness, I believe, first and foremost is reconciliation. I encourage you to take a few minutes right now and read Romans 12:14-21. Ask God to reveal any sign of an unforgiving spirit. If our inability to forgive goes unattended and we let bitterness take root, we will soon go from the offended to the offender. It is true that hurting people, hurt people.
2 Corinthians 5:18 says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”