When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”
So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”
Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
We can learn so much from what Joseph tells his brothers in the passage above. As members of the LGBT community, we often have people who “mean evil against us.” However, we must remember that God has a plan and a purpose for us. We cannot lose faith, we must persevere as Joseph did.
If you are not familiar with the story of Joseph, here is a quick synopsis:
In the Old Testament, the son of the patriarch Jacob and his wife, Rachel. He was favored by his father, and his brothers became bitterly jealous when he was given a resplendent coat of many colors (literally, coat with flowing sleeves). They sold him into slavery in Egypt, telling Jacob he had been killed by a wild beast. In Egypt Joseph gained favor with the pharaoh and rose to high office, owing to his ability to interpret dreams, and his acquisition of grain supplies enabled Egypt to withstand a famine. When famine forced Jacob to send his sons to Egypt to buy grain, the family was reconciled with Joseph and settled there.
Joseph is unwilling to take vengeance where God has shown mercy. His own deep faith and his own experience of God’s grace move him to forgive the past and build for the future. Not only does he forgive, but he promise to provide for and protect his repentant brothers and their families.
And it is what God would have for us too. A faith that looks not to the hurts and the wrongs that others have caused us, but to the grace and mercy God shows even in the midst of such wrongs. A faith that stands gratefully in the place of God to receive God’s gifts and live a life of forgiveness through service! A faith that is able to see the Lord’s mercy and grace at work even through the most evil of circumstances and trust that God will turn evil to good for those who love and trust in Him.
The lawyer may says “Let justice be done though the world perish.” A theologian says “Let sin be forgiven and the world be saved, for justice is not done, but sin is always done.” If the great, sublime article called the forgiveness of sins is correctly understood, it makes one a genuine Christian and gives one eternal life. This is the very reason why it must be taught in Christendom without unflagging diligence and without ceasing, so that people may learn to understand it clearly, and discriminatingly. For to do so is the one, supreme, and most difficult task of Christians. To do so is to understand the place of God – the work of God – the promise of God.
We sin every day, and we are also sinned against every day. When someone who has wronged us asks for our forgiveness, you and I have the unique privilege to reflect the love of God into their hearts and minds.
“I forgive you.” Sometimes I think that phrase is even harder to say than, “I’m sorry.” But that little phrase is packed with Christian power. It’s packed with the power of Jesus’ blood that washes away a lifetime of guilt. It’s packed with the power of God’s Word that makes it as valid as if God himself announced his forgiveness with a thundering voice from heaven. You know how much those words mean to you. Let’s share those words with the people in our lives who need to learn how much it means for them!