“Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and then they began talking freely with him.” Genesis 45:15 New Living Translation
”Jesus said, ’Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they what they are doing.’ ” Luke 23:34 New International Version
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 New King James Version
So how did he do it? How did Joseph have the ability to forgive those who turned his life into a living nightmare? Was that part of the more than 17 years learning curve God took Joseph through? As God was preparing Joseph for something greater than anyone could imagine, was He also creating in Joseph the ability to forgive?
While Joseph was in the pit, sold by his brothers, traveling to Egypt, purchased as a slave, and thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit, through each and every circumstance God was creating, removing, placing, adjusting, and preparing Joseph to serve in a capacity no one would ever believe! What an amazing part forgiveness would have in this entire retrofit of Joseph from spoiled, favored son to Second Most Powerful Man in Egypt.
I believe forgiveness is not something that comes very easy to many of us. Maybe I’m wrong, it could be just me who struggles with forgiving. Not all types of forgiveness challenge me, the small circumstances aren’t too difficult. There are, however, those other ones. The character assassins, those who cause my family pain, the accusers dredging up lies, the list could go on and on, and I’m sure you could add more of your own! The challenge as I see it is Jesus said to forgive without any caveats, without any exceptions! Quite honestly, I don’t know how to do that.
Truthfully, if the Holy Spirit does not intervene on my behalf, I can’t forgive. I’m just doing my best to keep things real, honest, transparent, and vulnerable; it’s not really all that easy! I would rather tell you how wonderful I am at forgiving, and all the amazing blessings I receive because I faithfully follow Jesus command to forgive. Well, it’s not going to happen in this post, or any very soon! For this is an area, among many, that remains under construction as I remain in the process of God’s Grace.
What does this have to do with showing how big is our brave with Grace? Everything! It takes an amazing amount of bravery to enter into the process of forgiveness. Yes, it too is a process— a part of the process that is Grace. Just as with responsibility, accepting the consequences of choices, and being accountable, Grace is not about bailing us out of anything! Grace is all about transformation, recreation, and a deepening relationship with our Creator and everyone He brings into our sphere of influence. Grace is allowing God to be God, knowing He is always working.
Joseph had every reason to hold his brothers accountable for what they had done to him. His brothers were completely responsible, beginning with attacking him and throwing him into a pit, then threatening to kill him, finally selling him to the Midianites, and stealing his precious coat-of-many-colors. They were accountable for his enslavement to Potiphar, even for the attack of Potiphar’s wife that landed Joseph in jail.
Every single negative circumstance that Joseph encountered and experienced could be attributed to the actions of his brothers 20 years earlier. So why forgive them? How could he forgive with all the evidence proving their guilt?
There is, as they say, the other side of the same coin. If they are to blame for the negative, are they also to blame for all the positive? Let’s face it, Joseph has it pretty good right now, a wife, two sons, wealth, power, authority, and only Pharaoh is more important than Joseph. Does this enter into Joseph’s willingness to forgive the past?
Here is one of those irritating reality checks: What could Joseph do about what had happened in the last 20+ years? And the answer is, Nothing, absolutely nothing. There was no way to change anything which had happened in the past. If there needed to be a different result from any past actions, God would see that it was accomplished. Joseph knew, had learned one of the most difficult lessons we must learn, the past is past. It’s a done deal. No matter how much we want it to be different, it won’t change, it can’t be different, it will never happen! Like Joseph, we have to move on into the present, because the present is all we have!
Benjamin is completely confused by the whole scene! A brother he was told was dead was in reality alive! The brothers he trusted had lied to him and their whole family all these years, telling them Joseph had been killed by a wild beast! Joseph looked remarkably fit for someone who had been torn apart by a wild beast and dead for twenty years! Relief flooded over Benjamin as he realized he wasn’t going to prison, he wasn’t going to be a slave, and he most certainly wasn’t going to die. His fear was replaced by joy, confusion, bewilderment, and just plain, “I have no idea what’s going on here!”
All that motivated Joseph was the desire to be reunited with his brothers, his father, and his family. Joseph was completely focused on reconciliation. For him, everything which had occurred in the last twenty years had been ordained by God so Joseph would be in a position to save his family. Joseph saw a much bigger picture, one that dwarfed all circumstances leading up to the moment in that room. Joseph had changed from spoiled, rich, favored son to a godly, confident, leader who knew he could trust God’s every lead whether it made sense to him or not. Each move God took Joseph through was another learning opportunity based in trust and faith. God’s Grace Process created in Joseph a willingness to offer the Gift of Forgiveness.
Joseph showed how big was his Brave as he gifted to his brothers what they most desired, forgiveness. For nearly twenty years these men had been haunted day and night by what they had done to their brother. All during that time period there was no hope for forgiveness, because how can the dead offer forgiveness? The brothers knew there was no way for them to ever be at peace again. Judah had tried running away, and that didn’t work out very well for him. Now, they could return to life! From being walking dead men, they could return to their families alive, more alive then they had been in years!
Very often the Gift of Forgiveness brings more healing than we will ever know. It’s not always something easy to give. There is no way I will ever tell anyone what they need to do or not do concerning forgiveness. Jesus, God through Paul, and John said quite enough to give guidance. There are some circumstances, some wounds, some pains, some actions so heinous they cannot be taken lightly. The act of forgiveness is very personal, and often very private. I believe it can only really be accomplished by the Holy Spirit working in us and through us.
Remember the prayer of forgiveness Jesus prayed when He was on the Cross. “Father, forgive them they don’t know what they’re doing.” That prayer rolls back through the ages and thunders down through the millennia, covering every being who lived, lives, or will live on this sin ravaged planet. It is just another reason Grace is indispensable, and why would we want it any other way?
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