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New beginnings through forgiveness, part 1

A Scripture study from Caring, part one of four. 

“A new year, a new you.” 

Typically, this phrase is associated with the celebration of the new year. Happy 2020, friends! Along with most people out there, I am sure you have made some resolutions to be better, do something better, to start something or to end something. Resolutions are the goals we make. 

Let this be a year of new beginnings! 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 

When you accept Christ into your heart and decide to follow Jesus, he has made you a new person. Your slate has been washed clean, and you get to start over. Sure, there may still be consequences to deal with, and logistics to figure out, but you are a new person—stand firm on that promise.

Part of this equation is the need to forgive—to find new beginnings through forgiveness of others, of God, of ourselves and then finding the will to move forward. In this study, we’ll look deeper at all four. 

Part 1: Forgiving others

One of the things that hold us back from embracing new beginnings is the grip we have on those people and situations that have hurt us. Without totally forgiving others, we cannot live fully into that new creation title we have been given. 

In the book of Matthew, there is a conversation recorded between Jesus and Peter. Peter asks Jesus how many times he is expected to forgive his brother when he harms him. Jesus says, “…not seven times, but 70 times seven!” (18:22). Jesus was telling Peter that the point of forgiveness was not to keep track of the number, but to forgive freely. Don’t be focused on keeping score. 

In Genesis 37-50, we read a story about a man named Joseph. If there was anyone in the Bible who was done dirty by those he loved, it was Joseph. Poor Joseph was hurt time after time, yet at the end of the day, he forgave—repeatedly.  

Behind the scenes

Read what Scripture says about Joseph’s situations in:

  • Genesis 37, when he was sold into slavery by his brothers.
  • Genesis 39, when he was purchased by Potiphar and then Potiphar’s wife had Joseph thrown into jail for false sexual assault allegations.
  • Genesis 40, when he interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and baker while in jail, which gains the attention of the guards.
  • Genesis 41:1-40, when he interprets Pharaoh’s dreams.
  • Genesis 41:41-57, when he is put in second of command of Egypt.
  • Genesis 42-50, when he is reunited with his brothers and father after a mass famine.

Beyond the surface

Joseph’s life was not perfect. He lived a roller coaster of extreme highs and even lower lows. As you read the story of Joseph, you will see that through it all, God was with him. When family and friends abandoned him, God stayed with him and allowed him to prosper. When others around him were confused and needed help, God provided Joseph with wisdom and guidance. 

Joseph could have reacted with anger, judgment and resentment in all situations—and you might even say he would be justified in doing so—but he didn’t. He began every reaction with forgiveness and glory to God.  

Between the lines

As you think about forgiving others as Joseph did, consider these reflection questions:

  1. Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do? How did it make you feel?
  2. What are some ways you identify with Joseph? 
  3. Think back to a time when you withheld forgiveness. What was the situation? 
  4. After reading Joseph’s story, would you react differently?
  5. Has there been a time in your life when someone hurt you desperately—be it abuse, an affair, being left to be a single parent, and so on? How did you react? 
  6. What got you through those emotions and feelings?

In Jesus, you are a new creation. Let go of those people and situations that have hurt you. Forgive them, just as Jesus has forgiven you, and move on. Forgiving someone does not justify or excuse the behavior or action. The act of forgiveness is not so much for them, as it is for you. As you finish this study, I pray you find the strength, wisdom and courage to forgive others. Enter 2020 with the confidence that God is with you. 

Closing prayer

“Dear God, Forgiveness is hard. On my own, I am unable to do this. I want to be like you. I want to embrace the title of New Creation that you have given me, but my grip on the past is to strong. I pray that your Holy Spirit would help me through this. I ask that you walk beside me and give me divine strength to see past the hurt and pain caused by others. I want to be free. I want my heart to only have room for you, and not the grudges I hold on to. Amen.”                                                                                                              

Sign up for the Do Good Digest, our weekly newsletter, and stay tuned next week for part two.

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Harryette O’Brien, Captain

Captain Harryette O’Brien is the Southwest Divisional Youth Secretary.