“Continue reading if you’ve told Mrs Lee that I cheated in the Math test . . .”
I stared at this opening sentence in a hand-written letter from a classmate in great bewilderment. What on earth have I done?
At that time, I was a 13-year-old who had just enrolled into a new school, so making friends was part of the deal. However, receiving a letter from a new friend accusing me of something I did not do was not.
Needless to say, I was deeply hurt by the words. And naturally, we drifted apart. We hung out with different people, participated in different activities, and maintained minimal contact with each other.
Now, ten years later, I attended a class gathering. That friend was present too. Although the strong feelings of anger and bitterness have faded with time, our hearts still bore the scars from that fateful incident. We chatted superficially—giving each other short updates of our lives—and hastily retreated to our respective circle of friends that we came with.
Forgiveness is not something that comes naturally to me. Moreover, the world tells us that unfair treatment warrants an eye for an eye. The Scriptures, on the other hand, teach us otherwise.
In Genesis 39, we read about Potiphar’s wife’s attraction to Joseph. Her invitation to sin was refused by Joseph time and again (vv.7-10). One day, when none of the servants were in the house, she seized the opportunity and “grabbed him by his cloak . . . but he left his cloak in her hand and ran from the house” (v.12). Potiphar’s wife then called in her servants and accused Joseph of trying to rape her. She used the cloak as incriminating evidence. When Potiphar found out, he imprisoned Joseph for a crime he did not commit.
Despite his predicament, Joseph continued to praise God. He did not harbor bitterness toward those who had caused him harm. He continued to serve God and men faithfully (39:22-23).
Joseph taught us to lean on God, and to forgive others even when we cannot forget the incident (Genesis 40:15).
In the Discovery Series booklet What Is True Forgiveness? Pastor Gary Inrig wrote: “Forgive and forget is a naïve cliché. Our minds do not function like computers with their convenient ‘delete’ function. We do remember the bad things others have done to us. The central issue is not that I forget, but what do I do when I remember how the person has wronged me.”
He continues: “Forgiveness is committing self not to treat another on the basis of what he or she has done wrong. It is to choose not to go back to reopen the file on the wrongdoing.” While forgiveness doesn’t necessary restore the status quo, it clears the ledger for reconciliation to happen.
Finally, let’s remember the words of God through Apostle Paul, “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14).
For Further Reading:
What Is True Forgiveness?