By now, all of you are aware of the fiasco committed recently by United Airlines when they forcibly removed an unwilling customer off one of their flights. Their CEO quickly apologized to the passenger and to the entire nation vowing that such incidents would never again occur under his watch. Besides the apology, the airline was exceptionally quick to reach a monetary settlement with the offended customer and although an amount was not mentioned, one can only assume it was in the millions. United Airlines was wrong, quickly took responsibility, and made amends. Case closed, right? Wrong! Politicians had to put their two cents in. Even though United’s CEO had already apologized and made restitution, he had to submit to further grilling, scolding, and embarrassment before a seemingly indignant group of lawmakers. I am fully aware that this man makes millions of dollars in salary so to say “poor guy” might not be appropriate here. Nevertheless, and even though I suspect not everyone will agree, to me this was like kicking someone who is down already.
As I caught some of the coverage of this hearing, I was reminded of the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. He suffered much greater indignities than the United Airlines passenger. Even worse, most of them came by way of his own brothers. They first considered killing him but later decided to sell him as a slave. Then they proceeded to lie to their father making it appear that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. Once in Egypt as a slave, Joseph was falsely accused of sexual assault by the wife of his master and was cast into prison. We all know that in time, by God’s predestined plan, Joseph wound up as second in command to Pharaoh. When he finally revealed himself to his brothers it was obvious that they were terrified fearing retribution. This was the right time for the hammer to come down hard on them. This was the time when their confession and plea for mercy and forgiveness was in order. Did Joseph wait for it? And if he forgave them, would this not be the perfect time to let them have it anyway? No, what a man Joseph was! He basically forgave them even before they asked for it. He let them off the hook by telling them: “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Gen. 45:5)
Unlike the panel in the recent congressional hearing, Joseph did not continue to berate his brothers once their sin exposed them. In His Sermon on the mount Jesus made it clear that God will not forgive those who do not forgive others. Nevertheless, when is forgiveness really forgiveness? It isn’t forgiveness when we throw it back at someone’s face after they have confessed and asked for it. And if we keep reminding folks of the time they offended us, neither is that forgiveness. When God’s children forgive, they really do.
God’s word for today: (Ephesians 4:32) “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”