18Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, ‘We are here as your slaves.’ 19But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.
Genesis 50: 18-21 NRSV
The saga of Joseph and his brothers occupies several chapters in the Book of Genesis. The favorite child of his father, Joseph’s status caused his brothers to be jealous of him. Combined with Joseph’s precociousness, and lack of emotional intelligence, his brother’s resentment turned into hatred.
They took Joseph and his “special” multi-colored coat and conspired to kill him. Yet at the last second, they decided to spare his life, but only because they figured they could make some money by selling Joseph into slavery.
This scriptural passage picks up after many years have passed, and Joseph has transformed into a wise and caring man. Joseph has done very well for himself, becoming a trusted official for the Egyptians. After an internal battle, he decides to show compassion towards his brothers and his father when they come to Egypt begging for food. I imagine it was quite the battle, with Joseph asking himself: do I really want to help these siblings who once tried to kill me?
After their father passes away, will Joseph continue to show compassion towards his brothers? The brothers are apprehensive, and decide to offer themselves to him as slaves. This is ironic, given that it was the very thing they had done to Joseph! Should Joseph accept their offer, it would be a perfect opportunity for “an eye for an eye”. But Joseph makes a different, more compassionate choice.
With an amazingly humble heart (Who am I to play God?), Joseph chooses to forgive his brothers. Joseph recognizes God’s providence behind their evil deed, saying “20Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good.”
Forgiveness is not easy, yet here we have a picture of what it means to forgive your brother or sister, even when they have done something terrible to you. Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it is a sign of amazing strength. When we are faced with the challenge of forgiving someone who has wronged us, may we all choose to be like Joseph. Although deeply wronged, Joseph chose the path of forgiveness. May we do the same…
Sometimes people do awful things to one another. There are times when I have been wronged by people, including those who are closest to me. Rather than looking for retribution or revenge, help me to choose the path of forgiveness. Grant me a humble heart, and give me the wisdom to know that all things work together for good. Enable me to say to those who have injured me, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” I pray this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.