But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Luke 6:35
Of all the endearing qualities of the Bible, none is more striking or confirms the fact that the hand of God moved the writers of Scripture more than the fact that stories weren't modified or altered to make individuals look better than they really were. Read something today or see a "documentary" and you're not at all certain that someone didn't put a spin on the story to make a client or hero look better--usually much better--than they are. Often the reality is vastly different from the projected image. It's the perception of truth which is written about--not truth itself.
The Bible tells it all--the sordid details of human failure, the lust that turned gentleness into savagery, the failure of individuals who were godly but forgot their calling in moments of passion, hatred, or greed.
Such emotions detail the account of brothers whose jealousy drove them to kill one of their own--their very own brother, daddy's favorite. You read about it in the book of Genesis. The boy's name was Joseph, and, if you recall the story, a compromise was not to kill him but to sell him to Midianite slave traders who took the lad--probably in his late teens--to Egypt.
About a decade passed, and through a set of circumstances more bizarre than fiction, Joseph ends up being second only to Pharaoh--Prime Minister of Egypt. Furthermore, a major famine parches the Middle East, and Joseph's brothers come to Egypt seeking humanitarian relief.
Eventually, the brothers face their own brother, who is the Egyptian Prime Minister. But they don’t recognize him. Ten years have changed all of them. He's clean-shaven, dressed like an Egyptian. Who in their wildest imagination would have thought the scrawny kid sold for a few shekels to a bunch of slave traders would end up running the country, the second most powerful man in all of Egypt?
John Bunyan, a man who also knew what it was to languish in prison, once wrote, "He that is down, need fear no fall; He that is low, no pride. He that is humble ever shall have God to be His guide." That was Joseph. And this was his moment for revenge--the hour he had lived for–right? No, based on the story that another Hebrew in exile in Egypt by the name of Moses wrote, Joseph had long since forgiven them.
The story is rich in insights for those who have been victims, who have lived with wrongdoing. Joseph not only forgave them, but did them great good instead of exacting punishment or revenge. He brought down the entire household and gave them some of the best land in Egypt for their flocks. Furthermore, his step of forgiveness resulted in complete restoration with his family.
Forgiveness means that I give up my right to hurt you because you hurt me. It means that I can trust Him who sees the sparrow fall to note the wrong that has been done to me and trust that God in His own time, and in His own way, will deal with the one who has wronged me. It means I refuse to exact an eye for an eye lest we both end up blind.
It practices what Jesus taught as He said, "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" (Luke 6:27-28). Easy? No! But it's the only way to healing.
There is no loneliness as great as that which results in our imprisonment by anger, hatred, and the thirst for revenge. When you can't forgive, you are both victim and perpetrator, jailer and prisoner. Learn a lesson from Joseph, who rose above revenge and lived with honor and fame.
Resource reading: Genesis 42-45