There's one thing that separates the men from the boys, so-to-speak, spiritually, the big leagues from the minor leagues, and that is forgiveness. It's real easy breezy to love those people who are very nice to us- I have no problem with doing that. But, to love people who have shafted us, to love an enemy, takes forgiveness. And that separates the wimps from the mature ones in the Christian circles. Loving our enemies, by the way, is something we should really pray for, because it's not easy. But I will guarantee you something. When you love your enemies, it will drive them nuts. A man wrote about an experience that he had. He was a pastor, and he said, "There was a man in my denomination who became my enemy some time ago. He said that I was not being faithful to the church. Eventually he started to hate me. During one of the conventions I went to him and said, 'Hi. How are you?' gave him a big hug. 'Don't hug me. I don't love you,' he growled. 'Well, I love you,' I replied. 'You can't love me. I am your enemy.' He was almost shouting at this point. 'Praise the Lord', I said. 'I didn't know you were my enemy, but here is an opportunity for me to love my enemies. Thank You, Jesus, for my precious enemy.'" He says, "You know something? One year later I was preaching in his church."
There's three meetings that Joseph has today with his brothers. Um, it has been twenty years since Joseph had seen his brothers, and now he's gonna see 'em face-to-face. The greatest struggle that we have in forgiveness is when we are face-to-face with the person who's done us in. It's really not a big problem for us when the person who's offended us is not in our presence- is absent. We can somehow tame the emotion to get revenge, the natural, human tendency to bear a grudge. But when that person is face-to-face with us, all of a sudden, those memories we've tried to bury come to the surface, and it's a big test, it's a big struggle. Remember the name that Joseph gave to one of his sons, Mannaseh? Which means, "God made me forget all of the trouble in my father's household, all of the pain of my past." Well here, today, is his test. It's been twenty years, they've been out of his sight. And now, through uncanny circumstances, his ten brothers stand before him while he is on the throne of Egypt. Three different meetings he has with him, each time they don't recognize he's Joseph. He recognizes them, they don't recognize him, and he doesn't tell them who he is until the very last. And it's the most touching story. But it takes concentration. You're gonna have to follow me from stage to stage. I will not read every verse in four chapters. We're gonna jump ahead and look at the climax of this.
But, look at verse 1 of chapter 42. It says, "When Jacob saw that there wasn't grain," or, "that there was grain in Egypt, Jacob said to his sons, 'Why do you look at one another?' I love that. "He said, 'Indeed I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down to that place and buy for us there, that we may live and not die.'" They're starving to death, even as Joseph predicted there would be a famine of seven years after seven good years. It happened. They're starving in Canaan. The brothers are hanging around and dad says, "Why are you just staring at one another? Do something. Go to Egypt." There was grain in Egypt because of Joseph's Operation Storehouse that he had been given by God. And, I want you to look at verse 7. They get to Egypt, "Joseph saw his brothers," keep in mind it had been twenty years, "and he recognized them, but he acted a stranger to them and he spoke roughly to them. And then he said to them, 'Where do you come from?' And they said, 'From the land of Canaan to buy food.' So Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed about them, and said to them, 'You are spies! You have come to see the nakedness of the land!' And they said to him, 'No, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food. We are all one man's sons; we are honest men; your servants are not spies.'" Can you imagine what was going on in the mind and heart of Joseph as he looks in front of him, bowed down are those ten men, and he recognized them. It had been twenty years, but in physical appearance, they were already matured twenty years ago. Joseph was only seventeen- they didn't recognize him. Joseph was clean shaven. He had on the garb and the haircut of an Egyptian. And they didn't expect Joseph anyway. They might've thought, "Ah, kind of looks like my brother, but ah." But he recognized by there weathered faces, their beards, their clothing as a shepherd, their tan, "These are Hebrews and these are my brothers."
It says that he, in verse 7, "Spoke roughly to them." He did not speak roughly to them because he was angry at them, but he was testing them. This is the first in a series of three tests. Joseph, as he saw them, remembered the dream that he had. That one day all of his family would bow down before 'em, and it's like a flash-back in his mind as he sees them bowing down. But in his mind and in his heart, Joseph has some questions he needs answered. He's wondering about the consciences of his brothers. He remembered how they sold him into Egypt as a slave and he's wondering, "I wonder if these guys have changed any in twenty years. I wonder if now they're venting their hostility and jealousy toward my younger brother, Benjamin, if he's even still alive. I wonder if their consciences are at all remorseful, or if they've gotten used to their sin so much that it doesn't bother them anymore." In Asaph's Fables, there's a story of a rich man who moves next door to a tanner, and in the old days, tanners, people who worked with hides, had the smelliest business in town. And the rich man was trying to persuade the tanner to move. He said, "Man you stink. Your business smells up the neighborhood. Please find a new location." And the tanner kept saying, "Don't worry. I will. Give me a few days. Give me a few weeks. I'll move the business." Time went on and on and the tanner never did anything about it. And eventually, the rich man never asked him to move because he got used to the stench. And Joseph is wondering, like in Asaph's fables, his brothers had gotten used to the stench of their own sin and they're conscience didn't plague them anymore. And so he's gonna do this beautiful little test. Watch what he does. In verse 11, "We are all one man's sons; we are honest men; your servants are not spies.' But he said to them, 'No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land.' And they said, 'Your servants are twelve brothers, sons of one man in the land of Canaan;'" So far, they are honest, "'and in fact, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no more.'" Who's he speaking of? Good ol' Joe. "And Joseph said to them, 'It is as I spoke to you, you are spies! In this manner you shall be tested: By the life of Pharaoh, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here.'" Look at verse 19, "'If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined to your prison house; but you, go and carry grain for the famine of your houses. And bring your youngest brother to me; so your words will be verified, and you will not die.' And they did so." At this moment, their hearts sunk. "Benjamin? Get Benjamin? Our father said that Benjamin would never leave his presence, and now one of our brother's is in jail, and we can never have grain until we bring back Benjamin." Now, at this moment, after twenty years, all of those things, those memories they tried to push out of their minds and forget are coming to the surface. At that moment, God is pricking and awakening their dead conscience. Look at the next verse. "They said to one another, 'We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when we, when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.'" You see, it snapped in their minds after twenty years, "It's because of what we did to Joseph. What is happening, what happened to him is happening to us now. And because we did that, this is coming upon us." "And Reuben answered and said, 'Did I not speak to you, saying, 'Do not sin against the boy'; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us.'" It's working. The test is working. They still have a conscience. It bothers them. And I'm sure Joseph was very pleased because there is an admission of guilt. Notice the word we in that sentence. It is emphatic in Hebrew. It is literally, "We and only we are responsible for what happened to Joseph. It says, "Therefore this distress has come upon us." And that, by the way is an interesting word. In Hebrew, it means, "to bind or to tie or to restrict". Emotionally, they were bound. They were tied up in their hearts. After twenty years, it still bothers them. They feel guilty for what they have done. Ever heard the saying, "Time heals all wounds?" Not true in this case. Sin has a way of making people carry a load of guilt that hangs with them like a scar. It won't go away unless there is restoration and repentance, which Joseph is trying to bring them to. That they're pricked to the heart, they're cut.
What happened to these guys is the same things that happens to us when we sin and we try to cover it up. We've done something wrong and we wanna, whoo, push it under the rug and forget about it. We may succeed for a time, but sin has a way of coming to the surface. Guilt, the conscience that God put in all of us, was meant to keep us pricked and aware of our sin so that it would bring confession. When we try to cover it up, it might take years, but eventually our sin will bear forth fruit, and here you are seeing the fruit of it, twenty years later. Amazing. One person said, "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when it at first we venture to deceive." And they're feeling the bite of that.
Verse 23, heh, all the time, they had no idea that Joe was Joe, and that he understood them as they spoke in their native Hebrew language, he was using an interpreter speaking in Egyptian that says, "They did not know that Joseph understood them, he spoke to them through an interpreter. And he turned himself away from them and wept. And he returned to them again, and talked with them." He restrained, he, he got himself together. "And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes." He turned away and he wept. Not out of sadness, but out of sheer joy, I believe. "They are passing the test. My brothers have a conscience. They feel remorseful." It was a sigh of relief. But he got himself together, quickly. They passed one test, but he's not quite sure. After all, it's one thing to admit guilt when you're backed up against the corner and caught in your own web. You know you're caught and so you start admitting guilt. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." And it's another thing to truly be sorry from the heart.
And so, he wants to perform another test. Test number two, meeting number two. He says, "Go back to your land. Leave Simeon in jail. Go get Benjamin and bring him back." And he is now gonna test their jealousy. And so they did that. They went back to the land. Dad was real bummed out about this whole idea. But they're starving to death. He says, "Take my son, bring back the grain, and bring Joseph, or bring the Emperor some presents this time. Make him feel good." And so we get to chapter 43. And I want you to look at verse 26. They get to Joseph. "And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed down before him to the earth. And then he asked them about their well-being, and said, 'Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?' And they answered, 'Your servant our father is in good health; he is still alive.' And they bowed their heads down and prostrated themselves. And then he lifted his eyes and he saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, 'Is this your younger brother of whom you spoke?' And he said, 'God be gracious to you, my son.'" You see the last time Joseph had seen Benjamin, he was just little old Benjie. He was a one-year-old toddler. Now, he's a twenty-one year old man. And he says, "You are Benjamin?" And all of the emotions he, again, cannot restrain himself, as the next verse says, "His heart yearned for his brother; so Joseph made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And he went into the chamber and he wept there." Oh. This guy is doing everything he can to pull himself together.
Now look at the test. Verse 34, "Then he took servants to them," uh, excuse me. Verse 31, let's go back. "He washed his face, came out; and restrained himself, and said, 'Serve up the bread.' So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because Egyptians could not eat food with Hebrews, for it is an abomination to the Egyptians." Little knowing that Joseph was one of them. "And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, the youngest..." on and on and on. "And he took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin's serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him." You see what's happening here? Now, it was not uncommon to give someone who is a guest of honor, like a ruler, a king, a double portion as the Spartans would do, or even four times the food, as the Cretans would do. Joseph outdoes them all, gives them a meal, and gives five times the amount to Benjamin. Why? Because he's testing their jealousy. He remembered that twenty years before, he himself was the favorite son of Jacob, and how his brothers hated him and were jealous and sold him as a slave. And so he's wondering if they've changed in this area of jealousy. Have they transferred all of those feelings of animosity and jealousy now on the second favorite son? Let's test them. Let's give them, let's give this kid five times the food. And then he probably studied their faces and their body language to see what they would do and what their reaction would be. But it simply says, "They drank and they were merry." Passed test number two. So far, so good. But does Joseph reveal himself? Not yet. He still is quite unsure as to the total conversion of his brothers. He's seen hope. They've changed in their attitude. Their consciences are still bare, and they can feel pain and sin from twenty years ago. They're not jealous obviously any longer.
But now he wants to test their love. Because twenty years ago, they didn't show very much love to Joseph and they certainly didn't show very much love to their father by expending one of his sons. And so he wants to test their love. Joseph knew something very important. Love is never tested by what you say. You can say, "Oh, but I love you." That does not cut it as a test. Love is not tested by what you say, but what you are prepared to do. Joseph knew that, and here comes test number three. He sends them on their way back to Canaan, saddles up all their donkeys, their sacks are running over with grain. But he tells his stewart to take his favorite silver goblet, which was customary for the Egyptians to use for divination, although Joseph didn't. And he took the silver goblet and the stewart put it in Benjamin's sack as a trap. He's setting a trap. And he says, "Now when these go out of the city, and they're going down the road, I want you to overtake them. And I want you to say, 'Hey, Joe is missing,' or, he couldn't say Joseph, "The prime minister is missing his favorite silver cup, and we think one of you stole it, and whoever's sack we find the goblet in, he shall become a slave." And so he did exactly that. He overtook them, and he told them the message, and the brothers agreed, saying, "Fine. Whoever's sack that silver goblet is in, he's your slave, fair and square." And now we get down to verse 12. "So he searched." Chapter 44, verse 12, "And he began with the oldest and left off with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack." Oh, no. Can you imagine what is going on in their hearts now? Well, look. Verse 13, "They tore their clothes, and each man loaded his donkey and returned to the city." Do you get the test? He's testing them to see their reaction. "I wonder how my brothers would react if another one of their brothers was sold as a slave into Egypt like I was twenty years before." What would their reaction be? Would they say, "Hey, it's in your sack pal. See you later. We got the food, we're scramming," like they did with Joseph when they sold him for twenty shekels? But no, they returned together. "Each man loaded his donkey and returned to the city. And Judah and his brothers came to Joseph's house, he was still there; and he fell before him on the ground." Can you imagine the joy of Joseph as he looks down his widow and sees a little parade of donkeys coming back into the gate. "They've come together. They didn't just let Benjamin go on his own. They didn't sell him as a slave into Egypt or let him go because of this. They're returning with him, even as they promised their father." It was a great day for Joseph. In verse 15, "Joseph said to them, 'What deed is this you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I can certainly practice divination?'" He's putting them on. He's saying, "Don't you know that I can find out all these things that you've done by divination?" "And Judah said, 'What shall we say to my lord?'" Listen to the words of Judah. "'What shall we speak? How can we clear ourselves? God has found us out, the iniquity of your servants; here we are, my lord's slaves, and here we and he also with whom the cup is found.'" No excuses for their past sin. He simply say, "God has busted us." And he says "we" twice. "Here we are slaved in Egypt. We as well as the one with whom the cup is found." He's coming toward repentance here.
But Joseph is a little bit unsatisfied. Maybe tongue and cheek, he presses it a little further. Notice verse 17. He says, "Far be it from me that I should do so; but the one, but the man in whose hand the cup was found, he shall be my slave. And as for you, go up in peace to your father." Now immediately, Judah responds. He doesn't waste time. He steps before the king and he begs forgiveness, he pleads with him. And this is one of the greatest, most inspiring speeches in the Bible. He tells them, "Look, my dad is old. One of his sons is already dead and he made us promise we'd bring this kid back, or else he would die in sorrow." And now, look at verse 30, toward the end of his speech. "Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad's life, it will happen, when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die. So your servants will bring down the gray hair of your servant our father with sorrow to the grave. For your servant became surety, or a guarantee, for the lad to my father, saying, 'If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame fore my father forever.' Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?" He has taken the final step of true repentance. He begs that he would be a slave. "Let Benjamin go free. Let these guys go free. Let me be a slave to you forever." And you think, "Now, wait a minute. This is, this is Judah? The same one who, twenty years ago, stood over the pit when Joseph was in it, and he was the one who talked his brothers into selling Joseph as a slave to Egypt? Now he is saying, 'Please let me be a slave in Egypt.' That's a change." He's putting himself on the line. This is the same Judah who could care less about what his father thought about Joseph's death, now so concerned about his father? Yeah. That's true repentance. Whew. Amazing.
If there are any lessons that we can learn from these brothers in the last twenty years, it is, number one, guard relationships. Guard your relationships- they are precious and they are fragile. Especially in your family. Think of the consequences before you act or speak, and if you've already acted, then suffer willfully the consequences for what you've done. The next obvious lesson is total confession, total repentance. Repentance plus taking responsibility for what you have done brings results. I don't care what mess you're in. I don't care if you've gotten divorced thirty times, and you feel like your life is the biggest can of worms. You're life may be a can of worms, but you know what? Slow down, own up to what you've done. True repentance, take responsibility, and take one worm out of the can one at a time, eventually you'll have an empty can. Total confession.
Now, we get to chapter 45, the turning point. The drama has intensified in Joseph's life. He's standing before his brothers. His emotions are tearing at the inside of him, crying to get out. And eventually he cries so loud, that al of Pharaoh's household can hear. And Joseph could not restrain himself. You see, the tests are over- the test of conscience, the test of jealousy, the test of love. The tests are out of the way, now it's time, really, for Joseph's test. How is he gonna react? What is his feelings, knowing all that has happened? And he now reveals his heart. "He could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, 'Make everyone go out from me!' So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it." And I'm sure the brothers are thinking, "What is happening? (laughter)" Here's this guy and he says, "Get everybody out," and he starts wailing at the top of his lungs and they're thinking, "Ah, this is it." They hadn't seen nothing yet. They had no idea what the next phrase would do to their insides. "And Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph.'" Arrow to their heart. Like a thunderbolt, it, I'm sure, they were probably just mouth open, white as a ghost, stunned. Shocked. "J-j-j-joseph? We've been dealing with Joseph all of this time?" Yep. You're busted, man (light laughter). "'I am Joseph; does my father still live?' But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence." "Distressingly distraught" is what it says. They were dismayed in his presence. Probably all sorts of thoughts were flashing through their minds, "What if Joseph retaliates. I mean, we've told him everything. And here were are, twenty years later, he's the most powerful man second to Pharaoh in the world. He could retaliate and we have no choice." And that's true. He had total control and they could do nothing. Think of his options. He could've said, "You know what? I'm really glad you guys are here, cause I'm gonna throw you in jail and let you know what it feels like to be incarcerated in a prison in a foreign country without anybody to represent you. I've been waiting a long time for this." Or he could've said, "You know what? I'm not gonna put you in prison. But you go back to your land of Canaan and your father without any food." A long, slow, sure death. Or he simply could've had them executed.
But what does Joseph do? After all of the testing it says in verse 4, "And Joseph said to his brothers, 'Please come near to me.' And they came near. And he said again: 'I amJoseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there is still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. Hurry up and go up to my father, and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph: God made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not tarry.'" Now, all of what he had put his brothers through in the last days and weeks can perfectly be explained. Joseph was trying to bring these characters to the place where they would believe and appreciate being forgiven. That was his plan. He was testing them to bring them to a place where they would believe and appreciate being forgiven. He didn't wanna, he didn't wanna destroy them. They needed forgiveness. And yet, if we were able to speak to these brothers on their way up to Egypt the first time when they needed food, if we would've stopped them on the road and said, "Hey, you know, you guys really need to experience forgiveness," they would've laughed you out of the road. They were not thinking in those terms. They were thinking about, "I need food in this here belly. I don't need forgiveness." But all of sudden, now they know that they need forgiveness and the restoration is total and complete.
And by the way, forgiveness is always a choice. It can be divorced from how you feel. "I don't feel like forgiving." But you still can. It is a choice. Corrie ten Boom says that years after her concentration camp experience, she was put into a Nazi concentration camp for taking care of some of the Jews. And there was one guard in particular who harassed her, raped her and her daughter, all sorts of cruel things, the chief guard. There was a point after that whole experience when she was face-to-face with this guy, and he held out his hand and said, "I am that guard. Would you please forgive me?" And she wrote, as she stood before with hand outstretched, she says:
I stood there with coldness clutching my heart. But I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, 'Jesus, help me.' Woodenly and mechanically, I thrust out my hand into the one stretched out to me, and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. 'I forgive you brother,' I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment, we grasped each other's hands. The former guard, the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment. To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
Joseph's forgiveness to his brothers was total forgiveness. Total forgiveness. Listen. Forgiveness that is not total forgiveness isn't worth much. If I offend you and you say, "Skip, I forgive you." That'll make me feel good, but I might not believe it. I might doubt you and you may need to display by your actions the fact that you really do forgive me for my offense to you.
And there are a few principles that spring out just in those few verses that we read about total forgiveness. I wanna share them with you. Number one, total forgiveness is demonstrated when you don't want anyone else to know that that person has offended you. After Judah's appeal, what did Joseph do first of all in verse one? He said, "Put everyone out of the room." Why? I mean they heard his cry down the hall, he wasn't keeping that a secret that he was emotional. It's not that he couldn't cry in front of people. He cried a lot. It was because he didn't want anyone else to know what his brothers had done to him. He didn't want the gossip going through Egypt as it so often does. He didn't want his brothers to get a bad start because he was going to bring them to Egypt. He didn't want some of the Egyptian guards in the palace to start looking down at his brothers. He wanted to forget it. And he didn't want anybody else to know, and that's total forgiveness. Love covers a multitude of sins. And total forgiveness protects the one whom you've forgiven.
Another principle. When you totally forgive somebody, you wanna make the person feel at ease. Look at the end of verse three. It says, "They were dismayed at his presence, they were shaken. And Joseph said to his brothers, 'Hey, come here. Come closer.'" And he tells them the same message all over again. Why? Because he wanted them, as he said those words again, to look into his eyes, to get close, so that they could see and know that he does not harbor grudges and vengeance and bitterness any longer. That's total forgiveness. Sometimes when we say we have forgiven a person, when they're in our presence, we wanna make 'em feel a little uncomfortable. Squirm a little bit, grovel a little bit. And yet say, "Oh, I forgive you." Total forgiveness will make a person feel at ease.
Third, total forgiveness does not allow the other person to feel bad or angry with himself after there has been forgiveness. Verse 5, it says, "But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here." He's saying, "Look, I knew that you guys would react this way once I revealed myself to you, but I'm not here to make you feel bad. I don't want to make you feel angry with yourself or bad with yourself. How different is that from sometimes the forgiveness we have toward somebody. "I forgive you, but I want you to realize what a creep you were and how bad that made me feel." That is not total forgiveness. Total forgiveness forgets it and does not allow the other peo- person to feel remorseful after there has been forgiveness. Before, yes, afterwards, absolutely not.
And finally, total forgiveness is the kind of forgiveness that makes and helps the other person forgive himself. Look at verse 5 again, "Do not therefore be angry because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years famine has been in the land, there's five left. There's gonna be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance." He's saying, "Look, bros. Behind what you did was a sovereign God who was with you all the way." Does not excuse their guilt. He is simply saying that behind your sin, Romans 8:28, "God is working all things together for his good." And God's purposes were established. Can you imagine how they made them feel? Incredible. So that it was easier for them to forgive themselves. You know one of the hardest things for Christians to do is to forgive himself. They walk around saying, "Oh yeah, years ago, I confessed my sins. God forgave me." But they're living with the guilt, and not being able to forgive themselves. Total forgiveness will help the other person forgive himself.
Now you have two options when somebody does you in and gives you the shaft. You can smile real cute and say, "I forgive you," and not really do it. Well, there's three options. You can say, "Forget it." Or you can say and smile and simply say, "I forgive you," and really not, and harbor a grudge in your heart. Or you can have total forgiveness, where you're not interested in telling anybody else about it, spreading it around. You're not interested in making the person feel uncomfortable, but at ease. And all of these points, that's our options.
Chuck Colson, who was a prisoner, wrote of another prisoner while he was at Indiana State Prison. He says:
Only weeks earlier, Steven Judy was electrocuted there. And execution always creates a special tension in a prison, and I could sense it that day. It was in the air, in the voices of the guards, in the faces of the men. After my talk, the warden walked us through the maze of cell blocks to the most dreaded of places- an isolated wing with five men awaited their final decree and death. Nancy Honeytree, the talented gospel singer who's part of our team, was with me, and several of our volunteers came along as well. Finally, we were ushered through two massive gates into the secure area. The inmates were allowed out of their cells, and we joined in a circle in the walkway while Nancy strummed the guitar and sang. It was a beautiful moment for those condemned men, and for us as we closed by singing together "Amazing Grace." Two of the men, I knew from their correspondence with me, and they were believers. One of them, James Brewer, had the most radiant expression during our visit, sang at the top of his lungs. As we were shaking hands and saying good-bye, I noticed that Brewer walked back into his cell with one of our volunteers. The others began filing out, but this volunteer remained in Brewer's cell; the two were standing shoulder to shoulder, together reading the Bible. I was expected in two hours in Indianapolis for a meeting with the governor, so I walked back into the cell. "We've got to go," I called out, beckoning to our volunteer.
"Just a minute, please," he replied. I shook my head and I said, "Sorry, time's up, the plane is waiting."
"Please, please, this is a very important moment," the volunteer replied. "You see, I am Judge Clement. I sentenced this man to die. But now he is born again. He is my brother and we want a minute to pray together." I stood in the entrance to that solitary, dimly lit cell, frozen in place. Here were two men-- one black, one white; one powerful, one powerless; one who had sentenced the other to die. Yet there they stood grasping a Bible together, Brewer smiling so genuinely, the judge filled with love for the prisoner at his side. Impossible in human terms! Brewer should despise this man, I thought. Only in Christ could this happen. The sight of those men standing together as brothers in that dingy cell will remain vivid in my mind forever.
Total forgiveness. Let's pray.
Lord, bring us to the place of Jesus, who totally forgave, no strings attached, impossible, as Colson said, in human terms. Possible only in Christ. I pray, Lord, that we would guard our relationships and decide to forgive those who have wronged us. And Father, because Your forgiveness is so great, and some people here have never experienced the forgiveness of the cross, total forgiveness, where You are the Judge and they are the prison and You are willing to forgive and wash away their sins, I pray Lord that You might bring home people to Your kingdom today. And if you are in this room and your desire is to meet Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and to be forgiven of your sins, to know that you have eternal life, in the quietness of your heart right now, I would like you to say, "Lord Jesus, be my Savior, forgive me of my sins. I turn myself over to You. I make myself Yours. Cleanse me and restore me and fill me with Your spirit that I might become born again." In Jesus name, Amen.