Forgiving Our Enemies

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you . . . ”

— Matthew 5:44

I want to talk to you today about the incredible importance of forgiveness in our lives. Without it, we’ll never make it in this world or the next. Doctors now know that we don’t get ulcers as much from what we eat; we get them from what’s eating us. If you want to have a miserable existence and risk contracting one or more diseases, then hold resentment and unforgiveness in your heart. They can destroy the body.

Would you prefer to cultivate a forgiving heart? Then learn from Joseph’s example. He had much to forgive . . .

  • He had to forgive his father, Jacob, because of Jacob’s folly in preferring him over his brothers.
  • He had to forgive his brothers for throwing him into a pit then selling him into slavery as a mere alternative to killing him. He had to forgive his brothers for all his years of slavery in Egypt and for the long, arduous tasks he had to perform until finally he was accepted into Potiphar’s household.
  • He had to forgive Potiphar’s wife, who took hold of his garment, bringing his integrity into question.
  • He had to forgive Potiphar, who never even looked into the matter between Joseph and his wife but condemned Joseph out of hand, sending him to prison to languish for years.

Joseph could well have said he had much to set right, but he never did. Instead he freely forgave them all.

Abraham Lincoln is also a wonderful example of forgiveness. He regularly forgave his enemies. On the very afternoon before he was shot, Lincoln gave instructions to his cabinet, many members of which were bent on stepping on the face of the South now that the Civil War had ended. Lincoln told his cabinet, “There will be no reparations.” He had a heart as big as the whole world and yet not big enough to hold a grudge.

Do you have an enemy whom you have not forgiven from your heart? Then ask God for the grace to forgive; after all, Jesus has forgiven us for so much more—who are we to hold grudges?

“I shall never permit myself to stoop so low as to hate any man.”
Booker T. Washington