And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.
And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,
So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.
And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.
And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them. ~~ Genesis 50:15-21 (KJV)
Forgiveness and reconciliation give us great difficulty. In the first place, they are not the same thing. You can have forgiveness without reconciliation. But you cannot have reconciliation without forgiveness.
Joseph’s brothers were afraid that Joseph was being kind to them only for their father’s sake. So when Jacob/Israel died, they needed to find out what Joseph’s attitude would be toward them. So they – the offenders – went to Joseph – the offended – with their apology. And Joseph forgave them and was reconciled to them.
Forgiveness is something you do for yourself. Holding a grudge takes time and energy and effort. It makes you unhappy because you dwell on the offense, not on the present joys you may have. Worst of all, however, holding a grudge puts you at odds with God. Not a pleasant place to be.
You can forgive unilaterally. The offender need not ask for forgiveness.
Reconciliation is another matter. It involves a recognition of the offense from both the offender and the offended. It requires forgiveness. And it requires a rebuilt sense of trust between the offender and the offended.
Joseph had seen the remorse of his brothers, first when they came to Egypt to purchase grain and in the intervening years between their dad’s settling in Egypt and his death seven years later. We have a tender reconciliation scene in which Joseph indicates his forgiveness of this brothers as well as his desire that they be provided for.
Can you recall an offender that you haven’t forgiven? Is there someone with whom you need to be reconciled? What steps can you take to remedy these issues?
You have commanded us to forgive. Give us the strength and stamina to forgive, even when there has been no apology. Grant us the faith to put our reconciliations into Your hands.
In Jesus’ most precious name.