Forgiveness the Hard Way

Forgiveness the Hard Way

10 When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. 11 When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.” That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim.

12 So Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them: 13 They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 14 After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, together with his brothers and all the others who had gone with him to bury his father.

Joseph Reassures His Brothers
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. Genesis 50:10-18

Part of me wants Joseph to lash out at his brothers for what they did to him.

But God gave Joseph grace to forgive them and try to put it all behind. Had they learned their lesson? Were they truly repentant? Only God knew that.

What would Joseph’s reaction have been if they were defiant and proud of what they did? Would he be as forgiving? In that case, should he have been as forgiving? Are you letting the offender go free if you forgive them without any kind of repentance or remorse? Are you then giving the offender an open slate to offend or abuse again?

You see, forgiveness isn’t as cut and dried as “forgive a person no matter what.” That is a dangerous and unbiblical principle. Unfortunately, it’s far too complicated for a mere blog post or devotional.

Yes, we need to forgive others. And yes, we need to give over to God those who have sinned against us but have never asked for forgiveness (or can no longer ask us). But be careful about forgiving before God has had a chance to work in that person’s heart.

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