If I had to choose one area of life that is the most difficult to do as a follower of Jesus Christ, I would have to pick forgiveness. I know it doesn’t make sense when you look at it in light of the cross and the forgiveness Jesus has provided for us. But words hurt. Personal attacks stay with us. People who are friends betray us and we are left wondering what we are to do with the broken pieces. It is tough, raw, and never as easy as it seems it should be. Deep down in us we want justice. We want to feel like God has taken care of the problem. (in other people of course, not in us)
I have struggled with this and God has been gracious to give me insights from His Word on this. What does it look like to forgive someone? What does it feel like? And how do you know it is actually done?
Joseph was just another one of Jacob’s sons. Yet, God had given Joseph a special ability and that really irritated his brothers. I mean, he sort of rubbed it in, but that is just what siblings do. So we see them come up with this plan in Genesis 37 to kill him and throw him into a cistern. Yikes! My brother annoyed me, but I never planned to do that. Thankfully Reuben had a little more sense than that and he talked them into just throwing them into the cistern and leaving him there. So they throw him into the cistern and then they sit there and eat their lunch! I mean, can you imagine what kind of strange scene that might have been. How do you enjoy your sandwich when your brother is down in a hole yelling for help? They then end up selling their brother as a slave to Egypt and then telling their father that he is dead. That is not nice. Don’t do that!
Fast forward now and Joseph has been given a position of power in Egypt. He actually ends up being in a position to inflict harm on his brothers who have come looking for food in a terrible famine. It was his chance to get revenge. But what does he do? In Genesis 45 we see a broken man loving his brothers despite the abuse. Yes, the same ones who had hurt him so deeply! What does this tell us about forgiveness?
Forgiving Does Not Mean Forgetting
Genesis 45:2 says that Joseph wept so loudly in this moment that everyone heard him. This was the heart of a man who saw his brothers, loved his brothers, but felt the pain of what had taken place. It hurt him deeply. And yet he decided that he was not going to hurt them.
The other people involved are in pain also
Let’s be honest. Just because I said that mean thing or did that in anger, it does not mean I am free and clear of the pain. The pain is shared. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you have been on the side of the offender, you have been hurt by it also. I have no doubt in my mind that at some point his brothers kind of said to each other “hey, you know I kind of feel bad about that.” We have all been there. So when Joseph starts weeping it makes these guys panic. What is he going to do? Will he hurt us? No. He has no intention to. In a true moment of God’s grace here recorded in scripture, they embrace each other, allowing the pain to be released. And then it says they talked. What a picture of forgiveness and the grace of God!
Joseph was able to recognize God’s hand in the pain
He said that despite what they had hoped to accomplish in seeing him sold off, God had accomplished his good purposes. His pain was used to save lives, ironically even their lives. That is really hard to see in the moment, but what a beautiful mess it really is when we get that.
Let the past remain in the past
After he sends them back to get their father he gives them instructions. Do not fight on the way back. I love that because I know I would probably want to have a conversation about who was more at fault in the whole thing. It is never my idea, is it? But Joseph is telling them to forget about all of that and just go get dad. Do not go back in the past. Let’s move ahead.
This all reminds us of Jesus Christ
This makes us look to Jesus Christ again because he was rejected, sold off and beaten. He was betrayed in the most cruel ways. We rebelled and put him on that cross. Yet, he is willing to forgive us which saves us from our own mess. What a wonderful Savior! He is willing to send out sins far away and restore our relationship with God.
Oh, God, help us all to be just as kind to other people who wrong us. It hurts us for sure, but Jesus Christ is able to help us in it. If you are struggling to forgive, look to Jesus Christ. It is not easy at all, but He understands fully and is able to help.