Forgiving Others, Part 2

This is the contents of the "Forgiving Others, Part 2" section of the "Developing Great Relationships"

Gen 34

Forgiveness is a funny thing: it warms the heart and cools the sting.

Following the Civil War, Robert E. Lee was visiting in Kentucky where one lady showed him the remains of what had been an enormous, old tree.

This tree stood directly in front of her house.

She bitterly cried to General Lee of how its limbs and trunk had been shattered by Federal artillery fire.

Having poured out her anguish she looked to the old soldier for a condemnation of the North.

Following a brief silence, Lee responded, “Cut it down, my dear madam, and forget it.”

It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to take root and add bitterness to your future.

There is always a time to forgive.

That time is always now.

  • Your season of bitterness is over.

  • Your season of anger and plotting revenge is over.

  • Your season of chaining yourself to this other person’s hurt or disappointment is over.

It is a new season, a fresh season, a season is plant something new.

Do you want to forget what was behind?

Then do what Paul did in Phillippians 3:13, “but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”

Do you want to forget the past?

Then forgive; chop down that broken tree and nurture something new and exciting.

Discover what God wants to do with you once you’ve freed yourself from the bitterness of your past.

Live in the present and the future and not in the past.

Seek new relationships; make new friends.

So we have managed to fall upon God’s mercy and grace and, by His power, we have forgiven someone.

But what does that mean?

Does that mean that we must act as though that offense never occurred?

Must the relationship be back to exactly the way it was before the hurtful incident?

What Forgiveness is not

  1. Forgiveness is not necessarily trusting that person fully or even partially.

You may share something confidential with someone and then they blab it to others.

You can sincerely forgive that person but that does not mean that you should be willing to share confidential information with them again anytime soon.

Trust is earned.

You have every right to expect that person to prove their trustworthiness before you make them your confident again.

  1. Forgiveness is not necessarily forgetting about the offense.

It is good to forget about it and forgiving that person is the first step towards forgetting about it.

But forgetfulness is not a test for forgiveness.

When God says in Hebrews 10:17, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more,” does that mean that He forgets that they ever existed?

Does it mean that if I commit a sin yesterday and then repent of it that God says, “What sin?”

No. It means that He forgets the debt against us and no longer holds it against us either now or ever in all of eternity.

But it is not wiped out of God’s mind so that He no longer is able to remember it.

Think about the Bible.

It is full of examples of people who sinned and then repented.
But if the Bible is truly inspired by God, i.e., that its contents were given to men to record from God, then how are these stories are still included?

Shouldn’t God have forgotten about them?

And if He forgot about them then how could He tell people to write them down?

It is because forgiving does not necessarily mean never remembering; it means never holding it against that person again.

And, in a way, that is even harder.

If we are truly able to completely forget about some offense then it isn’t so difficult to never hold it against that person.

But if it does come to mind and we are able to genuinely not hold that hurt against that person then we are truly resting in the grace of God.

Of course it is good to forget but it is not necessary to forgive.

  1. Forgiveness is not excusing the person.

Excusing the sin is actually the opposite of forgiveness because it is saying the offense really didn’t matter, that there was nothing to forgive.

You don’t need grace to excuse; you just need insight and understanding.

You need grace to forgive because it was, in fact, a grievous offense.

  1. Forgiveness is not smothering the issue because then it will just continue to burn in our soul and start sinking its deep roots into our hearts.

Forgiveness is not pushing the hurt so deep that we think that we are unable to think about it.

Rather, forgiveness is truly dealing with the offense.

It is closing the book on it; not hiding it somewhere in the room.

  1. Forgiveness is not accepting or tolerating the person.

We accept people for the good that they are; we forgive people for the bad that they do.

But why should we point this sin out to them?

Because it will help them to overcome the sins in their own lives that may be weighing them down.

And it may be a sin that is causing them to have problems with other people or with God.

Love wants the other person to be better.

  1. It is not necessarily being reconciled.

Yes, it is good and it is the best to be reconciled, but even if there is no reconciliation that does not mean that forgiveness is absent.

Every effort should be made to reconcile but sometimes that is impossible.

  • There may be an ex-spouse that is cruel.

  • There may be a person who still wants to inflict harm on you.

  • There may be someone who is a total fool.

But we should do what we can to reconcile.

Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”

And Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

Notice that this verse in Romans puts the entire onus on you.

God does not expect a 50/50 attempt.

He expects you to make the entire effort.

But if that reasonable effort, and note how key the word “reasonable” is, fails then you are free from further obligation.

We are going to look at two Bible stories.

In each one, someone was terribly sinned against.

And yet, their responses were opposite.

We are going to see how this affected their lives, their futures and how God viewed their reactions.

Simeon and Levi

Gen 34:1-7

34:1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land.

2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force.

3 And he was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her.

4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, "Get me this young girl for a wife."

5 Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in.

6 Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him.

7 Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.

Vs. 2

Shechem raped Dinah; a terrible act and the sons of Jacob heard about it and were furious.

Vs. 13-17

13 But Jacob's sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor, with deceit, and spoke to them, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.

14 And they said to them, "We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us.

15 "Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised,

16 then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people.

17 "But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go."

Jacob’s sons pretended to go along with Hamor in order to trap him and get revenge.

But notice what is missing from the sons of Jacob.

  • They didn’t pray or cry out to God.

  • They didn’t seek counsel or their father’s advice.

  • They lied or, at least, used half-truths.

  • They schemed together about how to get revenge. Obviously, they did not make this story up on the fly. They sat around and planned it out.

It’s dark out and they’re all gathered around a campfire.

One might have said, “Let’s just go in and kill him.”

Another, “If we do that then the whole town will come out after us and we’ll never be able to hold them all off.”

Then why don’t we just go in at night and kill everyone in town while they’re sleeping.”

And what if one person cries out? Then what? Then the whole town will wake up and we’ll be kapooy.”

What we need is some way to weaken all of the men in the town.”

There is a moment of silence while they all rub their chins and think.

Then one of them narrows his eyes and in a low voice says, “hmmm, I think I’ve got it.”

When we are sinned against, is our first instinct to cry out to God.

Do we seek counsel?

Or do we lie and plot revenge?

Do we think evil thoughts towards that person?

Vs. 25

25 Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male.

Simeon and Levi killed all of the males and then stole what was left.

They punished even those who were associated with the transgressors.

Lack of forgiveness sometimes knows no boundaries.

There is a saying, “My enemy’s friends become my enemies.”

I can assure you that this saying is not Biblical.

Have you ever been hurt by someone and then snubbed his or her’s friends?

This is wrong.

Vs. 30

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, "You have brought trouble on me, by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I shall be destroyed, I and my household."

Jacob erred in that he did not reprove them for doing evil but for causing him trouble.

He had an attitude of consequences being more important than righteousness.

Vs. 31

31 But they said, "Should he treat our sister as a harlot?"

They couldn’t get their eyes off of the offense.

They focused on the sin and not on God’s grace and forgiveness.

They let another’s sin dictate their own lives.

Shechem’s sin dominated

  • their thoughts

  • their actions

  • and their excuses.

And it was the justification for their own sin.

How many times have you ever excused your own sin because it was in response to someone else’s even greater sin?

Sin is always wrong.

Throughout this story notice how many times God’s name comes up.


They never took the situation to God.

They never even tried to rely on His grace and power.

And the result was the ruin of their own lives and the ruin of the lives of those around them including their own family.

Now we jump ahead to when their brother, Joseph, was the second in command in Egypt, but they didn’t know that it was him.

Their youngest brother and Joseph’s only full brother, Benjamin, was always left behind with Jacob when the other ten brothers came to Egypt, but Joseph wanted them to bring Benjamin the next time.

So to ensure this he took one of the brother’s as hostage to be released when Benjamin appeared.

Notice who was selected.

Gen 42

Vs. 24

24 And he [Joseph] turned away from them and wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.

Interesting how Simeon was the one taken and held in prison.

The one whose life was already imprisoned by unforgiveness is now the one who was chosen to be held in an actual prison.

Now let’s jump to the end of Jacob’s life when he gathered all of his sons and prophesied over them.

Gen 49

Vs. 5 - 7

5 "Simeon and Levi are brothers; Their swords are implements of violence.

6 "Let my soul not enter into their council; Let not my glory be united with their assembly; Because in their anger they slew men, And in their self-will they lamed oxen.

7 "Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel.

These are the only two brothers who are prophesied together; all of the others are done individually.

These brothers are forever linked because of their sin.

Some consequences of revenge and unforgiveness:

  • We will not be led by God’s guidance.

  • We will not be vessels of God’s glory. God will not shine through our lives.

Unforgiveness is tied to:

  • Anger.

  • Destruction of others and of ourselves.

  • Self-will. Wanting our way rather than God’s way.

  • Cruelty.

Two more consequences of unforgiveness:

  • God cursed them.

  • God divided them; i.e. they didn’t have the strength to do what would have been able to do.

Now let’s look at the second example.

Here was a person who was also sinned against but see how different his response was.


Gen 37

Vs. 18-20, 23-24

18 When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death.

19 And they said to one another, "Here comes this dreamer!

20 "Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, 'A wild beast devoured him.' Then let us see what will become of his dreams!"

23 So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him;

24 and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.

You can see here the first stage of hurt that we discussed earlier.

Joseph was unfairly schemed against.

He was personally hurt.

And the attack went deep.

Gen 45

Vs. 3-5

3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come closer to me." And they came closer. And he said, "I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.

5 "And now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

Joseph put God into the middle of the hurt.

He didn’t focus on the sin; he focused on the God who can overcome all sin.

Gen 49

Vs. 22-26

22 "Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall.

23 "The archers bitterly attacked him, And shot at him and harassed him;

24 But his bow remained firm, And his arms were agile, From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),

25 From the God of your father who helps you, And by the Almighty who blesses you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

26 "The blessings of your father Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.

Joseph is fruitful.

And notice how many times the word “blessings” is used.

And what is the theme of verses 23-25?

When he was attacked, God stood by him and supported him and blessed him.

Look at the contrast:

  1. Simeon and Levi perpetrated violence. Joseph resisted violence.

  2. Simeon and Levi lost the council of God. Joseph had God helping him.

  3. Simeon and Levi lost the glory of God. Joseph was surrounded by the Almighty.

  4. Simeon and Levi were cursed. Joseph was blessed five times from the heavens above, from the depths below, and from all around him.

  5. Simeon and Levi were scattered; their strength was removed. Joseph was distinguished.

Who would you rather be?

The one who fumes about your undeserved hurt?

Or the one who puts God into the center of your hurt and forgives?

What are some thoughts or behaviors that may keep us from forgiving?

Someone has sinned against us and we are mad and we have been mad for quite a while.

God has commanded us to forgive.

We know how much unforgiveness is eating us up.

We know that even though being able to forgive is impossible in ourselves we have the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to always do what is right.

So why do we struggle so much to forgive?

Why do we cry out to Jesus like the father whose son was demon possessed, “I believe, help me in my unbelief”?

We are going to quickly look at a few reasons as to why we might not want to forgive.

  1. You might not want to forgive because you are angry or frustrated.

Why might you feel anger over an offense?

  • It might be because you feel that you have just been treated wrongly and that you deserve to be treated better than that.

  • It might be because you feel that you have invested a lot of time and emotion into a relationship and now it appears that it was all a waste of time.

  • It might be because you have had your hopes and dreams shattered into millions of shards of glass.

  • Or sometimes it might be because it helps you to avoid self-examination.

So now you are angry.

Something bad has happened to you and you want to make sure that everyone knows it.

The Bible clearly speaks about anger. Notice what it says the solution is.

  • Psalm 37:8, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing.”

  • Ecclesiastes 7:9, “Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools.”

This study doesn’t have the time to look at anger in-depth but here is what God says.

The Bible is clear about anger—simply stop being angry.

Of course that is easier to say than to do.

But if you do what is right then your attitudes will generally follow.

What are some ways of overcoming being angry at this person?

  1. When talking about him or her make a point not to raise your voice.

  2. Though it might be cathartic to discuss what happened to a couple of your close friends, it is not necessary to replay it over and over again either to those same people or to anyone who happens to pass within ten feet of you.

  3. When discussing the situation don’t just talk about what happened and how awful it was but also what can now be done to move ahead. I.e., you may start off negative but always try to end positive.

  4. Don’t talk about how you’re always the victim and how everyone always steps all over you. If there was anyone who fit that role it was Jesus and you never read about Him complaining.

  5. Yes, you’ve lost something but are you going to fill that hole with bitterness or with something positive? If you do nothing then the first will occur. The latter will only happen if you use the situation to devise goals and create means to accomplish those goals.

  1. You might not want to forgive because you want revenge.

You may want revenge because that person has hurt you and now you want them to feel the same pain.

You might:

  • Spread vicious rumors

  • Destroy their belongings

  • Scheme against them in your mind or wish ill against them

  • Commit physical, verbal, or emotional violence

You may feel that the person hasn’t paid enough yet to be forgiven.

But forgiveness, by its definition, excludes payment.

Otherwise, it’s not forgiveness; it’s justice.

1 Peter 2

20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,


23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

What is the key here?

  1. Jesus did not respond in like manner

  2. He trusted God to do what was right

Yes, taking revenge makes you even with that person; but passing by that revenge makes you more like Christ.

Revenge is the poorest victory in all the world.

To kill a hornet after it has stung you was never known to make the wound heal any faster.

There is no passion of the human heart that promises so much and pays so little as that of revenge.

  1. You might not want to forgive because you enjoy playing the victim.

You may feel that the only way that you’ll get attention is by being felt sorry for.

  • But have you ever tried genuinely caring about someone else?

  • Have you ever thrown yourself fully into helping those who are disabled or disadvantaged in some way?

  • Have you ever focused on bringing joy into other people’s lives rather than your sorrows?

Maybe then you would also get attention but this attention would be so much sweeter.

Of course, it is easier to complain on and on and on; that takes hardly any effort at all.

It takes work to sacrifice for others.

But it is so much better.

  1. You might not want to forgive because you really don’t like that person and you want to keep it that way.

  • You don’t trust that person anymore.

  • You don’t want to spend any time with that person anymore.

  • You just don’t like that person anymore.

So you continue to not forgive to ensure that there will be no reconciliation or even approach by that person.

But realize that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that you must now be best pals or go on vacation together.

It doesn’t mean that you must now trust that person explicitly.

It doesn’t mean that that person must become a part of your life again.

But, yes, it does mean that you need to be friendly to that person.

It does mean that you can wish them well.

And when this happens it means that you have released them from their burden of payment and that benefits you far more then it benefits them.

We just looked at only four reasons for why a person might not want to forgive.

But those two words are oftentimes the key of a struggle with unforgiveness—“not want.”

We can forgive, we may somewhat want to forgive, but we don’t.

And, yes, it is true that a particularly vile offense may take time.

It might not be that we don’t want to forgive but that the wound is too new, we are still wobbling and confused, or we just don’t know what hit us.

And this could be justified.

But as time goes on, the problem anymore is not so much the original offense but the attitude that we’ve developed.

If you are struggling to forgive then perhaps you should dig deep enough to ask yourself “why not?”

That might go a long way.

Why should we forgive others?

  1. Because God has forgiven us.

  2. We must forgive for our own sakes.

Unforgiveness will take over our lives.

  • It will snatch away our thoughts.

  • It will drain our emotions.

  • It will ruin our future.

  1. Because God has so richly forgiven us how could not return even a morsel of forgiveness to someone else?

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Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: