Turn off your cell phone, TV, or radio. Listen to the silence that is around you. Listen for God to speak to you.
Genesis 50:15-26 (NRSV)
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.
So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s household; and Joseph lived one hundred ten years. Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation; the children of Machir son of Manasseh were also born on Joseph’s knees.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die; but God will surely come to you, and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” So Joseph made the Israelites swear, saying, “When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here.” And Joseph died, being one hundred ten years old; he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.
One of my favorite songs is “Forgiveness,” by Matthew West. It begins with the phrase, “It’s the hardest thing to give away.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds this statement so true.
Because my husband and I had not been able to have children, we were completing the documents to be eligible to adopt a child. Part of this lengthy process is getting letters of recommendation. A close family member informed us that he would not complete the letter of recommendation if we agreed to accept a child regardless of race. We refused to change our minds, wanting whatever child God would send to us.
A child whose skin is a different color from ours became available, and we were fortunate to adopt Benjamin. After the adoption, this family member went out of his way to avoid have any contact with Benjamin. However, when Benjamin was about 6 months old, I began to notice that this person’s opinion had changed. They wanted time with Benjamin and wanted to love him. I could have held the words against him, but that would have benefited no one. Forgiveness strengthened our family.
At General Assembly in June of this year, we worshiped not only with people from other Cumberland Presbyterian congregations, but also with people from our sister church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America. Last year the Cumberland Presbyterian Church officially apologized to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America about behavior that, unfortunately, was indicative of the United States at the time. Our churches must chose forgiveness if we are to be what God intends for us to be. Forgiveness strengthens our church, our faith, and our relationships.
Heavenly Creator, please help us to remember that the strength of forgiving someone comes from you. I choose to forgive those who have hurt me and release them to you. Help me to bless those who have hurt me. In Jesus name. Amen.
Go with God.