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Faith Chat: Some forgiveness factors to consider

One of the most difficult tasks for a human to do is to take on the divine characteristic of forgiveness.

As we journey through this life, there are people - either individuals or groups - who do us wrong. Everyone gets hurt or gets treated unfairly or gets offended, and our human reaction is to extract a price for our pain from those that tread on us.

But as a part of the Christian's transformation in developing Christ-like character, God tells His children to extend His grace to friends and enemies alike. In fact, Colossians 3:13 instructs for total forgiveness - in the same fashion that God extends forgiveness to us: "...bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do."

That is total forgiveness. We aren't even allowed to harbor resentment in private toward others! This seems like a bite too large to swallow, but in Genesis 45 Joseph displays a portrait of forgiveness that envelopes factors that could help us in total forgiveness.

Recognize God's sovereignty in the circumstance

After Joseph's brothers sold him as a slave, God orchestrated Joseph's promotion in the country of Egypt to the second-highest authority in their government! Almost 15 years later, Joseph's brothers encountered him as they attempted to purchase food, and after a series of tests, Joseph made this statement: "And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God...." (Genesis 45:7, 8).

I think just the reminder that God uses circumstances in our lives to grow us helps us look past the people who hurt us, and focus on God and His hand in our lives. Joseph recognized that his brothers had committed a heinous crime against him by selling him as a slave, and there were very difficult years while Joseph served in the Egyptian's house and prison. But a focus on God allowed him to extend total forgiveness.

God isn't forced to curry offenses by others toward us. Life is naturally full of events that hurt us. But understanding that God can use even the hatred of others against us in order to develop the divine characteristics of grace and forgiveness can help us remember there is more to the picture than getting even: getting closer to God.

When I think of how difficult it is to forgive someone who has slandered me or treated me unfairly, I understand how valuable God's grace toward me is - how every individual sins against God. But in His grace, He offers total forgiveness to us when we haven't earned it by offering His Son Jesus Christ as Savior from sin when He died on the cross and rose from the grave.

No wonder forgiveness seems so much more unnatural than getting even!

Forgiveness is a divine characteristic we need to develop toward those who hurt us through God's influence and power in our lives.