I already mentioned that all have sinned and need forgiveness. Joseph understood this, and it helped him to see beyond his brother’s egregious offense.
What this brother did was despicable, but it was not beyond forgiveness.
Consider what Jesus Christ taught us about forgiving one another. His disciples had come to him, asking him to teach them how to pray. Jesus taught them what we now call the Lord’s Prayer, and part of it is the request for God to forgive us. Then Jesus added the following instructions concerning forgiveness:
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)
Without forgiveness, none of us has any hope, including those trapped in the superiority and inferiority complexes that are branded as racism.
People have been hurt, and some hurt very badly. Nobody can say that a lot of damage and senseless killings, pillaging, and terrible atrocities have not been committed under the disguise of racism. While all these heinous and despicable acts perpetuated and carried out are painful, discouraging, and plain evil, we must force ourselves as Joseph did to see the hand of God amid all this pain and choose the high road of forgiveness.
You may be saying, “But it is painful, and it seems the perpetrators are walking free when they must be punished.” Here is where you may be wrong in thinking that you know how to punish somebody for their crimes.
Only God can dish out the punishment that each person deserves, and you must trust God to execute that punishment.
The brothers of Joseph were so guilty that years later, after their father died, they went to their brother and pleaded for their lives. Can you imagine the torture and mental anguish these brothers went through during their lives? Please do not try to be God because that is something that you are not cut out for. Instead, follow the admonition in the word of God:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19 (NKJV)
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. Romans 12:17 (NKJV)
Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done to me;
I will render to the man according to his work.” Proverbs 24:29 (NKJV)
Forgiveness is a command, and if you do not forgive, you are jeopardizing your own soul. This is something that Joseph understood and acted upon because he understood that letting go of hate and vengeance was good for him. He trusts God to take care of his brothers.
Many people are calling for payback and stirring up emotions and replaying what happened in the past or are happening right now. If we are not careful, we will take the bait and enslave ourselves.
While we acknowledge that great harm has been done, we should not try to overcome evil with evil because that does not work. We must overcome evil with good because light always displaces darkness.
You may be thinking that the perpetrators have hurt you or your people too many times and there is no way you are going to forgive them because they have overdone it. Peter thought like that when he asked Jesus the following. The question came up because a servant who owed his master, let’s say, a million dollars, pleaded for his master to forgive the debt, and his master did. Then, this servant turned around and held another servant who owed him one hundred dollars. Not only did this servant insisted on being paid, he actually threw the other servant in prison. Word got to their master because other servants went and reported the ungrateful servant to their master. The master threw the ungrateful servant in prison and insisted that he had to pay off all his debt before he is released.
This situation troubled Peter, and when they were alone with Jesus, it is written
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV)
The command to forgive is crystal clear here, and there is no limit to how many times you should forgive on a given day.
The bottom line is that all of us have received unlimited mercy from God and should extend it to other people.
This is something that Joseph understood, believed in, and acted upon. We, too, should learn how to forgive.