The Necessity of Forgiveness Day 6 – Forgiven Brothers
Growing up with three siblings, our ages spaced closely apart, rivalry was something I knew well. While we would fight to the death to stand up for each other when someone outside our four-some threatened, we were also quick to team up against one another to the point of throwing punches (to our shame). We were not always quick to say the words “I’m sorry,” but we were pretty quick to forgive. Why? Well, because at the end of the day we truly loved each other, and also because Mom and Dad made sure we ironed out our differences.
While having three siblings allowed for plenty of opportunities for opposition, I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up with eleven brothers, but that was how it was for Joseph in the Bible. And even worse, he was his father’s favorite, which caused contempt from his older brothers. Favoritism is a breeding ground for disaster; jealousy births some of the worst thoughts and actions capable in mankind.
The story spans several chapters in Genesis so I’ll condense it here. When Joseph came to meet his older brothers in a field where they were working, they sought to kill him. But instead of killing him, they decided to sell him as a slave to a caravan headed to Egypt. Then they lied to their father and said that he had been killed by a wild animal. They even took the colorful coat given to him by his doting father and tore it, dipping it in blood as evidence of their concocted story. If you’d like to read it in its entirety (totally worth it), you’ll find it in chapters 37-50.
Years later, after many circumstances which were directed by the Lord, those same brothers stood before Joseph, though they did not recognize him, asking for grain for their starving families. God had placed Joseph in a place of power and honor so that many years later the whole lineage of Jacob would be preserved by their brother’s provision. While Joseph endured many hardships and painful losses as a result of being sold by his brothers, he chose to forgive them, recognizing God’s providence in his life.
Because of Joseph’s decision to extend forgiveness, the family was brought to live and serve God together in a land far from their homeland, but alive nonetheless. One of Joseph’s brothers, Judah, would be a part of the long lineage that led to Jesus many generations later.
Joseph is a man that, when I read his story, I have much respect for. He had so many reasons to be angry and bitter, yet he chose to be marked by compassion and forgiveness. This was possible because of his love for God and a heart that desired to serve and please Him.
If you’re struggling with forgiveness, ask yourself why, and then be willing to do some soul searching to see if you’ve lost that close connection with the Lord. When we truly live to honor and serve Him, there is no room for grudges or bitterness. We cannot claim to love God and yet hate or even strongly dislike a brother or sister. Scripture calls us a liar if we make that claim, showing the seriousness of our unwillingness to forgive another.
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. “(1 John 4:20, ESV)
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” (1 John 2:9, ESV)