There’s an old proverb that says, “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushes it.” There’s another that says, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Who do you need to forgive? And what makes granting that forgiveness so complicated?
Ever since I was a child, I have loved the story of how Joseph’s brothers, who sold him into slavery, travel to Egypt to beg him for food. I love the tension, the mystery, the providence, the comedy, and the irony of the entire episode.
I think the power of this story resides in how complicated Joseph’s relationship is with his brothers. They betrayed him and nearly ruined his life, but he still loves them. They were jealous of how their father favored him, but now he stands exalted before all Egypt. They stripped him and beat him, but now he wears the Pharaoh’s robes and holds the power to save their lives.
But the greatest power Joseph holds in this story—the power that will determine whether his brothers live or die—is the power to forgive them rather than make them pay for their sins. Here we are given a taste of the drama of the Gospel. The offended One holds all the power and owes us nothing. The only thing that can save us is His grace, which we don’t deserve. What will He do?
It isn’t just Joseph’s brothers who need saving. Joseph needs to be saved from doing something terrible in the name of revenge that would certainly haunt him for the rest of his life. He needs to experience mercy just as much as they do.
Can’t you feel the tension? Joseph has better reasons than most to hold a grudge or seek revenge. Those brothers’ offenses against him are real and terrible. Appreciate in these chapters how complicated this was for Joseph. Forgiving is hard—especially when we have justifiable reasons to demand satisfaction.
Before moving on to the next chapter, Genesis 44, take a minute and sit in the tension of the unfolding scene in these chapters. Consider these questions:
What would taking revenge give Joseph?
What would it cost him?
Does he need his brothers to apologize in order for him to extend grace?
What sort of apology could carry enough weight to atone for the wrongs done to him?
Now consider your own struggle to forgive and ask yourself the same questions.
True forgiveness is given, not earned. We stand before Christ like Joseph’s brothers before the Prince, and this is what we’re told: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight…” (Eph 1:7-8). If this is the grace extended to us, what would it look like for us to extend a version of it to others?
May the lavish grace of Christ free us to forgive others in His name.