I preached three times on forgiveness yesterday. Interesting how the lectionary theme reached that on the tenth anniversary of September 11th 2001. I mainly focused on the gospel but was niggled by the Old Testament reading - the great passage at the end of Joseph's life where he forgives his brothers.
Or does he?
You see the sentiment in Genesis 50 is of restoration of relationship. He reassures his brothers. He promises to provide for them and their children. He does forgiveness in every possible way. But will you find the expression, 'I forgive you' on his lips? You will not. Maybe because he knew that the message that his recently-deceased father had asked for this was bogus (that is the suggestion). Maybe because he thinks forgiveness is God's task not his (a reading of v19). Maybe because he holds something back, and who would blame him?
Fact is that saying forgiveness without doing it is useless. And this comes out in the Gospel where Peter asks how many times he should forgive his brother. He gets this daft parable response about a servant who is let off an amount equivalent to 1,000 times the annual revenue of Samaria, Judea and then some and then throttles a guy who owes him a miserly amount. Both debtors end up in jail, one being tortured. Whoever thought torturing someone was more likely to make them find money they hadn't got?
Forgiveness is in God's gift. Not holding grudges against those who have sinned against us is in ours.
The ancient proverb, pre-Bible, that we don't do to others what we don't want them to do to us is made entirely positve by Jesus in Matthew 7 and Luke 6. He probably had some Leviticus on his mind when he said it. Do do to others what you do want them to do to you.
Do it. Have a good week.