"Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him, if he thirst, give him drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Romans 12:20
Forgiveness the simplicity of the word, but yet the complexity of the act. The scripture tells us to feed our enemies when they are hungry and provide them drink when they are thirsty for kindness can make them remorseful. Nevertheless, how are we supposed to be kind to people who have betrayed and caused us pain.
Have you heard the story of Joseph and his brothers? Joseph's father Jacob loved him more than all his children. As a token of his love, Jacob gave Joseph a beautiful coat of many colors. His brothers were jealous of him, because of the love and affection their father gave Joseph.
Well one day Joseph had two dreams and in one of the dreams the sun, moon, and the stars worshipped him. In the second dream, Joseph's grains in the field arose and his brothers' grains were bowing down. He told his brothers these dreams which made them hate him even more.
Joseph's brothers were taking care of the sheep and their father sent Joseph to see how his brothers were doing. Joseph went to see his brothers and out of jealousy they plotted to kill him. The oldest brother Reuben said, "No let's not kill him, let's throw him in a pit". Before they threw him in the dry pit, they took Joseph's beautiful coat.
While they were eating, some Ishmaelite men came along and they sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver. So what were they going to tell their father? They couldn't tell him they sold Joseph. They killed a goat, spread the blood on Joseph's coat, and showed their father. Jacob thought Joseph was killed by a wild beast and was grieving. Joseph's story does not end here!
Joseph was eventually sold to a man name Potiphar who worked for Pharaoh the king of Egypt. Joseph was a houseslave that became charge of the whole house of Potiphar. Potiphar's wife became fond of Joseph and wanted him to sleep with her. Joseph knew this was wrong and refused her. This made her very angry and she lied to her husband that Joseph tried to sleep with her.
Potiphar had Joseph thrown in jail and while he was in jail, Joseph became charge of two of Pharaoh's officials. In jail, through the Holy Spirit, Joseph was able to interpret dreams for these two men.
Joseph told the cupbearer in three days, he will be restored to his position and told him not to forget him. He told the baker in three days, Pharaoh will put his body on a pole and the birds will eat away his flesh. Three days later the dreams came true and of course, the cupbearer forgot all about him!
Two years later, Joseph was still in the jail and Pharaoh had two dreams, but no one could interpret them. At last, the cupbearer remembered Joseph! Joseph was finally released from jail and he interpreted the dreams. Joseph told Pharaoh that Egypt will have seven years of plenty food and seven years without food.
Joseph advised him to appoint someone to collect food for storage and Pharaoh appointed him governor of the land. Eight years later, Joseph's brothers went to Egypt to buy food, saw their brother, and bowed down to him. They did not recognize Joseph, but he recognized them. Joseph wanted to know if his brothers were still unkind and decided to test them.
He accused his brothers of being spies and they denied it. They told Joseph they were twelve brothers from one man, the youngest is with their father, and one was no longer with them. Joseph had Simeon, one of his brothers, thrown in jail. He gave his brothers the grains for free and told them to bring back their youngest brother to prove that they were telling the truth.
The brothers were frightened and felt they were being punished by God for what they did to Joseph. They went back home to tell their father who refused to send Benjamin his youngest for Jacob already lost Joseph and Simeon. Nevertheless, they ran out of food again, so Jacob sent his sons with Benjamin and gifts for Joseph.
They returned to buy food again and Joseph decided to test them again. He gave them food, but he also placed a special silver cup in Benjamin's bag. They were not that far down the road, Joseph sent his servants after them accusing them of stealing the cup. The brothers denied it, but the cup was found in Benjamin's bag.
Joseph told them Benjamin must stay behind to be his slave. The brothers were upset! Judah spoke up and said, "We must return with Benjamin, because our father will die if we don't. He loves Benjamin too much. He told us that one of his sons was torn to pieces and he can not lose this one too." Judah begged Joseph and told him he will be his slave in place of Benjamin.
Right then, Joseph saw how his brothers have changed. He began to cry and revealed himself to his brothers. The brothers became scared, because they remembered what they did to Joseph. Joseph told them not to blame themselves, because God sent him to Egypt to save people's lives.
What the brothers meant for harm had a greater purpose! Joseph told his brothers their entire household including their father will come in live in Egypt. Pharaoh gave them the best land and new clothing.
Joseph could have easily denied his brothers food and not forgive them, for they did a terrible thing against him. However, Joseph feared God and the Holy Spirit gave him the grace to forgive his brothers.
"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: it is mine to avenge, I will repay, says the Lord" Roman 12:19 NIV. Only the Lord has the authority to bring punishment on someone, not ours.
Through my own experience and behavioral health specialist background, I have learned that hurt people hurt people. When we do not heal from past pain, bitterness, and/or rejection, we tend to project those feelings on other people. Many are unaware that their behavior is triggered by unresolved emotions. Joseph's brothers betrayed their brother, because of envy, bitterness, and assumed rejection from their father.
When we do not forgive others, we can easily fall into bondage of emotional instability. When we do not forgive others, we leave open wounds where the enemy can legalistically attach himself. The enemy will use our wounds to keep us from moving forward in our lives. His only purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. I know this is easier said than done.
Firstly, we must ask the Holy Spirit to heal us, teach us how to forgive, and to let things go. For this is what Jesus Christ does for us. He forgives us and does not hold any records of wrongs against us. The power of forgiveness offers us freedom! To walk in righteousness requires us to more like Christ and we must be able to forgive whether the hurt is caused by a friend or an enemy.
Who caused you pain? What happened?
Father thank you for your grace. Please heal me from my past wounds, teach me how to forgive, and to let things go.
I no longer want to be in bondage and want to move forward in my life in Jesus's name. Amen!