Today we’re going to look at a powerful way to learn tongue control: forgiveness. Learning to forgive – quickly – those who offend us or hurt us has a profound effect on our ability to control our tongues in other situations as well.
Developing a forgiving spirit towards others does several things: 1) it makes you more godly for you are imitating our gracious God whose mercies are new every morning; 2) it helps you grow in the virtues of patience and self-control; 3) it protects you from having to eat your words later; 4) it produces humility which is precious in God’s sight. How so? It takes a measure of humility to forgive for only the proud and arrogant refuse to forgive others. We have a stern warning about that in the scriptures. ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.’
Joseph, son of Jacob, is a superb example. I suppose there were many times during his years of separation from his father and his brothers when he was tempted to be resentful, angry and frustrated. I say ‘tempted’ because there is no evidence that he was a sullen and irritable servant in the house of Potiphar, nor in the prison of the Pharaoh.
When the reunion with his brothers finally happened – some seventeen years later – Joseph’s manner of forgiveness challenges all of us.
When he was about to reveal himself to his brothers, he made everyone leave the room lest any of the Egyptians find out how his brothers had betrayed him. He protected their reputation! Godly forgiveness doesn’t broadcast what ‘those people’ have done to you.
Godly forgiveness does not make the offender afraid of you. Joseph said to his brothers: ‘Come, close to me,’ when he saw they were terrified. (Gen. 37:3-4)
Godly forgiveness lets the offender save face. Joseph told his brothers: ‘It was not you who sent me here, but God, that many lives might be saved.’ (Gen. 37:9-11)
Godly forgiveness lasts. Some seventeen years later, Jacob died and the brothers feared that Joseph might then take his revenge. Apparently they hadn’t really learned who their brother was because their fear betrays their own character, not Joseph’s! When Joseph learned of their concern, he demonstrated that his forgiveness of them had been a life sentence. (Gen. 50:15-21) They were still forgiven and would be for the rest of his and their lives.
How did the brothers know Joseph had forgiven them? His words clearly demonstrated that he had no bitterness, no grudge, no lingering anger against them. It was his words that demonstrated the forgiveness in his heart.
He certainly had opportunity to say all kinds of other things! He didn’t. He chose the way of the Lord, the way of forgiveness, and SPOKE it in a genuine and gracious way.
The Word of God teaches us not only to forgive those who, though family or friends, may nevertheless offend us or hurt our feelings. We are told to forgive our enemies as well. Knowing that, some of us – in desiring to do right – will say, ‘Lord I just commit them to You.’ That’s good; certainly better than being angry and vengeful. But it’s not quite up to the standard the scripture establishes.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Luke 6:35
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:44
We are in fact commanded to PRAY for our enemies, that God might bless them and help them. We are in fact commanded to ‘DO GOOD and LEND, expecting nothing in return…’ Wow! How many of us really do that?
News flash! Following the ways of the LORD is not a piece of cake! It’s not an invitation to an easy, self-centered life and if anyone told you it is, they were not preaching the truth of God’s Word to you!
From the very beginning of Genesis we learned that God made man in His image and His likeness. Therefore, God’s idea from the very beginning was that you and I would be like Him. So what is He like?
Gracious, Compassionate, Forgiving, Merciful, Patient, Kind and on and on. If He asks us to forgive our brother anytime we are offended, how much more does HE forgive us when we offend or disappoint Him? He forgives continually and without regret.
One final thought: it doesn’t take too much grace to forgive when people are sorry for what they did or said. Forgiving them in that instance doesn’t give evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in you. But when you and I forgive BEFORE there is any evidence that the offender is sorry, THAT, my friends, demonstrates godly character for it is God Himself who created Redemption before the world was ever created!
It is OUR WORDS that give evidence if we are bitter or merciful.
And don’t excuse yourself by saying, ‘Well I might as well say what I think.’ My friend, if what you want to say does not reflect the character and nature of your Savior God, button your lip! It is our tongues that get us in trouble; that tongue which was given us that we might praise God and bless others. Let’s train it to fulfill its purpose.