What do I say to a friend who has been hurt by someone's sin? How can I help her to forgive in the face of injustice?
I love the story of Joseph. His brothers were unspeakably cruel to him, selling him off as a slave and telling his father he was dead. Joseph spent thirteen long years in Egypt first as a slave and then a prison inmate. Eventually Joseph came out on top-made second in command in the Egyptian empire by Pharaoh himself. Years later, after making the startling discovery that Joseph was alive, his family ended up benefiting from Joseph's circumstances. He generously saved them from famine and provided a home where food would remain plentiful for the rest of their days. But even in the light of his generosity, or perhaps because of it, the brothers never lost their fear and guilt over what they had done.
When Joseph's father died, the brothers were terrified Joseph would now finally take his revenge for their terrible deed. But Joseph was not out to see justice served. He understood that his brothers were only pawns in his life, used by God to bring about His plans. So Joseph responded to their fears with frankness: "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."
Joseph was able to forgive because He trusted God for the bigger picture. God used his brother's sinful actions to accomplish his will, both for Joseph and His people. When we trust God to "cause all things to work out for good to those who love God,"(Rom 8:28) we can relax and not be bent on finding justice for our injuries.
Forgiving in the face of injustice is a tough one, especially in our country where we expect justice to be served and the rights of the individual protected. How can we forgive someone that does not deserve to be forgiven?
It is a bit frustrating for a justice lover to read how things went down for Joseph's brothers. They never did suffer the way Joseph did. They were never repaid for their sin. They sold their brother into slavery, and actually benefited in the long run from their actions, in that their families' needs were met by the very brother they betrayed.
Yet before we get too indignant, we need to realize that we, too, are guilty of sin that ultimately led to our own benefit. "But he was pierced for our transgression, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed." (Isaiah 53: 5) Every disobedient act that we have committed in our lifetime drove the nails into the precious hands and feet of Jesus. Our sin put him on the cross, yet we alone derived the benefit of his suffering. We can be free from our sin because of his death and resurrection.
So it's true: life is not fair. Thank God for this. If justice was always served, we would face an eternity of suffering for our sin. Instead, we can live with hope of an eternity with God.
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13