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Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Today’s Scripture Reading | Genesis 50:15–21
Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them. (NRSV)
Forgiving someone for something said or some act committed is really hard to do, but it can also be the first step towards healing and letting go of the grievance. Paul Boose writes that “forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” My grandpa, a farmer his entire life, was always bitter about so many things because he could not forgive or forget any wrong done against him. He let it all build in him and not only ruin his life but many people around him.
On our Fourth Church music mission trip to South Africa in 2018 we learned about Nelson Mandela being able to forgive and work with the South African government that had imprisoned him for twenty-seven years. Nelson Mandela was able to set aside his own unfair imprisonment and the sins of apartheid and, through the nationwide process of speaking truth and offering reconciliation, was able to lead the entire nation towards acts of forgiveness and healing. He worked toward freeing not only himself but the entire country of bitterness with an incredibly generous act of forgiveness.
With forgiveness, new possibilities can emerge as they did for Nelson Mandela and many people of South Africa and as they did for Joseph in Genesis. Without forgiveness in someone's heart, they become a prisoner of the hatred, and they are ruined by the bitterness, as happened to my grandfather. We all have someone to forgive. We all need forgiveness. What do you choose to do?
Loving God, thank you for offering grace, amazing grace, that abounds, heals, and makes us whole through forgiveness. Amen.
Written by John W. W. Sherer, Organist and Director of Music
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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