When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, …they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘… forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” … But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.—Genesis 50:15-20, NLT
Some immigrants leave their country because of the severe oppression, hostility, or hatred they have suffered there at the hands of personal or political enemies. In other cases, they run away from the abuse and mistreatment of spouses or family members. After Joseph saved the lives of his family and received well-earned expressions of honor from his brothers, everyone faced a moment of truth. Would Joseph take revenge on his brothers after the death of their father? Ironically, in the moment of truth, the brothers had the gall to show their faces before Joseph with lies in their mouths.
The reconciliation processes that ocurred in the Republic of South Africa in the 1980s and in El Salvador in the 1990s put great emphasis on the importance of Truth Commissions, which were empaneled for everyone to confront the truth about their past atrocities. In spite of the false pretext that motivated their meeting, Joseph and his brothers formed a brief truth commision to confront their sins. The brothers recognized their offenses against the innocent Joseph, and he accepted their guilt. With the truth confronted, Joseph once again expressed his forgiveness.
No lesson has greater importance in life than the necessity of forgiving those who have hurt us. Joseph could forgive his brothers in “the moment of truth” because he had already forgiven them long before they confessed their sins. That very pardon made his success in life possible. Throughout his years, many people hurt him, but Joseph always maintained a positive attitude of service.
Joseph revealed the secret of his forgiveness when he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” Those who know God has their destiny in hand and works all things together for their good can accept that their enemies, no matter what they do, cannot defeat them. Although humans propose evil, God has a good will for our future. God’s eye is on the sparrow, and we know God watches us. We should take seriously the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray: “forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12, NLT).
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.