Forgiving Again and Again

Forgiving Again and Again

“So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:21 

Over the course of my life, I’ve required a lot of forgiveness from God and my family. So, I’d like to think that I’m quick to forgive. I do have those in my life whom I’ve had to forgive repeatedly. I’m not referring to those who’ve wronged me repeatedly, but rather, today I’m referring to those who’ve wronged me once and whom I’ve struggled to forgive. There are those in my life who’ve offended me, and in my offense, I’ve become resentful. I recognize that my resentment is toxic, so I must forgive whether I receive an apology or not. I do forgive. But then, later, when something reminds me of the offense, I take back my forgiveness and return to my resentments. Sometimes it just feels good – to pick the anger and bitterness back up, turning them over and over in my mind. Then, I must go through the whole process again, recognizing my resentment, letting it go, and forgiving again. Sometimes, I find myself forgiving daily, as I keep returning to my bitterness.

We’d like to think that forgiveness is something we do once as we release the debt forever. The greater the offense though, the more difficult it is to truly let it go, and often, we must repeatedly forgive as we keep returning to our resentment. Sometimes, it seems, we must forgive a thousand times before we truly let go.

I’m not sure if Joseph was ever tempted to unforgive his brothers, but in today’s passage, the brothers were clearly worried about this. Joseph had previously forgiven his brothers for selling him into slavery. Now though, with their father dead, the brothers were afraid Joseph’s hatred, anger, and resentment would be rekindled. The brothers understood human nature and our propensity to rescind our forgiveness. They underestimated Joseph though, who reassured them that he would not seek revenge. Do not fear, for am I in the place of God (Genesis 50:19)?

Vengeance belongs to God (Deuteronomy 32:35). We’re not God. We’re all terribly flawed and we have all required forgiveness from God and from others. As we’ve been forgiven, so too must we forgive, even if we never get an apology. Resentment is toxic to our own spiritual and emotional health. So, as often as we’re tempted to return to our resentment and anger, we must choose to forgive just as often. Sometimes we’ll have to forgive someone daily – or a hundred times a day – until we truly let go of the debt. As we have been forgiven, so we too must forgive, again and again.

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