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evil’. Joseph acceded to his father’s request and said to his brothers, ‘Fear not . . .he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them’. This was forgiveness within a family. Joseph forgave their sin in so far as it affected him but he could not forgive their sin against God. He asked, ‘Am I in the place of God?’ (v. 19).

The forgiveness that believers enjoy: Our sins are forgiven the moment we believe, ‘Whosoever believeth in him shall receive forgiveness of sins’, (Acts 10.43). May we never lose the wonder of that glorious fact. A lifetime of sins, forgiven in a moment of time: our sins are dealt with fully, finally, and eternally. The Apostle John writes of the necessity of continuing to examine our lives and to confess our sin, in order to maintain fellowship with God, (1John 1.9).

The first is a once for all forgiveness of sins past, present, and future; thereby we have union with Christ. The second is an ongoing forgiveness that is promised to those who confess all known sin to the Lord and forgive the wrongs of others towards them, (Matt.6.12); thereby restoring communion with Him.

Forgiving others: ‘Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him’, (Luke 17.3, 4). In their desire to rise to such a challenge, the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’, v. 5.

Ephesians chapter 4 verse 32 says, ‘And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you’. We should never be looking for a reason not to forgive, but rather to show forgiving spirit to all.The Lord has forgiven us, and with that thought in our minds, we ought to forgive others. The ‘forgiven’ should be ready to forgive. In Matthew chapter 18 verses 23 to 30, the Lord spoke of a king who forgave one of his servants an enormous debt of ten thousand talents. The servant who had been forgiven had a fellow servant who owed him one hundred pence, but he refused to forgive him that small amount.

If we harbour hard thoughts towards another believer, it causes bitterness within our own soul, and robs us of the full joy of salvation. The ‘root of bitterness’ mentioned in Hebrews, 12. 15, spreads, and affects others. As with all root systems, if left unchecked it becomes more difficult to eradicate. Bitterness corrodes the container in which it is carried. One of the heaviest burdens to carry in life is a grudge against another believer.

It is as a warning against the harmful effects of bitterness to us that the Lord prefaced the section in Luke by saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves’. When the Lord taught his disciples to pray, the only thing they were asked to profess was, ‘as we forgive our debtors’, (Matt. 6.12).

An unforgiving spirit hinders prayer ‘And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses’, (Mark 11.25);‘ ought against any’ includes everyone and excludes none.

The words of the Saviour from the cross should fill our hearts with the joy of our forgiveness, and challenge us to show a forgiving spirit towards others.

‘Thy foes might hate, despise, revile;
Thy friends unfaithful prove.
Unwearied in forgiveness still,
Thy heart could only love’.

[EDWARD DENNY_1796-1889]

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