Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
One of the reasons why the Bible is so valuable is because it gives us real life examples and shows people who faced real hurt and heartache just like we do. Rather than becoming victims, they became victors. Rather than sinking into the quicksand of bitterness, they were able to get to the oasis of forgiveness. They set the standard for what it looked like to overcome tough times with the right heart and the right attitude.
The poster child for forgiveness is a man named Joseph. How did Joseph keep from being burned by the fire of bitterness? Avoid drowning in a sea of bitterness? Becoming immune to the poison of bitterness? It is because he refused to take the place of God.
Joseph understood something about forgiveness that you need to understand. God is like us in that He has to forgive others who do wrong to Him. He is continuously in the position of the forgiver, but He is unlike us in that He never needs to be forgiven like we do. The simple reason why we always need to forgive others and we must forgive others is because we are not God. Joseph has no desire to play God and he is not going to take the place of God.
What Joseph was saying was “I may be the Prime Minister of Egypt, but God is the Preeminent Master of the Universe. Since I sometimes need to receive forgiveness then I must always be willing to give forgiveness. C.S. Lewis said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” You can forgive, you must forgive, and you will forgive when you remember just as God has forgiven you, you are to forgive others.
Dear Lord, thank you not only for the example of forgiveness that Joseph set, but also the example you set for us in selfless forgiveness. Give me the grace to forgive others the way you have forgiven me and help me to let go of any bitterness that I’m tempted to hold onto. In Jesus’ name, amen.