Yesterday I posted the first three steps Joseph modeled in restoring a broken relationship. They were and are to:
• Create privacy
• Make the goal of all confrontation reconciliation
• Stay focused on the big picture
Today I want to follow up with the final three steps from Genesis 45:1-15. Step four is to seek restoration (Genesis 45:9). Reconciliation is the work of righting the relationship. Restoration seeks to bring the relationship back together and in working order. Thomas Jefferson once said, “When the heart is right, the feet are swift.” Throughout this passage you can sense Joseph’s urgency. He wasn’t looking to simply appease his conscience. He wanted to have his family in close proximity so they could be a family again. Which leads me to an important question: Can we really say “I forgive you” and “I never want to see you again” in the same breath?
Preparing and teaching this passage last weekend gave me the opportunity to reflect on some common wrong approaches to restoration. Allow me a moment to share them with you and see if you can see yourself in any of them.
The first is “I will forgive but I will never forget!” This is conditional forgiveness that really isn’t forgiveness at all. When I moved to Texas many years ago I quickly learned an adage that you may be familiar with. It said, “Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me for giving you the second chance.” Forgiveness is more than saying words. Forgiveness reorders the offense, choosing to consider it no longer and refusing to hold the offender captive to their error.
The second wrong approach says, “I will forgive and I will do my best to forget.” As though it is possible, this person forgives and then suppresses the offense, living in denial. Generous doses of shopping, narcotics, alcohol, or food will aid the denial process as the person stuffs it deeper and deeper. Acting like nothing ever happened in some ways is the opposite end of the spectrum of refusing to forget.
The third wrong attempt is, “I’ll just let it go, after all, time heals all wounds.” Really? Break a #2 school pencil into two pieces and set a timer. How long will it take for the pencil to heal itself? Impossible, you say? How is that any different than the offense your carrying in your life? Time may dull the senses, but time will never heal a wound properly.
I think the realistic approach is to say, “I will forgive, knowing that I will never forget, but I will allow God to heal that wound. It will leave a scar, but every scar is a reminder of a wound that has healed.” When we can get to that level of thinking, we’re on our way to restoration.
Step five is to speak a word of blessing (Genesis 45:10-13, 18-20). Joseph wanted his family to be close to him in Egypt and offered them the best that the land had to offer. I think one of the clearest indicators that we have forgiven is that we genuinely want the best for the person who has offended us. We want them to be close, and we wish nothing but blessings on their life.
The final step is to enjoy the relationship (Genesis 45:14-15). The story concludes by telling us that Joseph and his brothers talked freely, maybe for the very first time. It’s tragic that it took nearly their entire adulthood to come to the point that they could deal with the past and enjoy what was intended from the beginning.
So there you have it. Six steps modeled by Joseph on how to restore a broken relationship. But that leaves us with one final question. Why is God so insistent that we forgive one another? I think the reason is simply this: God wants you and me to be free. When we don’t walk through the steps of reconciliation and carry those offenses, we carry a tremendous weight. God insists that we forgive so we can be free.