I was retelling the story of Joseph and his brothers to my children this morning … the later bit of the story when Joseph is already a top bloke in Egypt and his brothers come to Egypt to find food. Aside from realising that the details of this story are extraordinarily complicated (pretense, guilt, hostages, journeys back and forth …), I was struck by the extent and thoroughness of the forgiveness that Joseph demonstrates. It’s a beautiful type of the love and forgiveness which God offers us.
So, Joseph first does a whole bunch of things to test the genuineness of his brothers’ contrition but when it is clear that they deeply regret the way they treated him and will even sacrifice their own lives to prevent something similar happening again, Joseph redeems them entirely.
1. “Have everyone leave my presence!” He doesn’t make a public spectacle of his forgiveness. He’s not trying to prove something or gain additional credit for his forgiveness. We sometimes do this: when we forgive we secretly hope that others will admire us for our graciousness and look down on the other party as a scoundrel. Joseph doesn’t. He sends everyone else out, he makes his reconciliation a private affair. His forgiveness is humble and focused entirely on the recipients of his brothers.
2. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” His brothers are terrified when they realise who he is but he draws them near. He doesn’t want them to fear him or his power. He wants them to feel his acceptance and love. Forgiveness is not just a theoretical concept. It isn’t paperwork It isn’t a check box and a signature from an unfeeling bureaucrat. God wants us to feel forgiven, He wants us to feel His love and His redemption. He wants us to feel close to Him.
3. His forgiveness is raw – it flows from the belly of his being. He throws himself on them and weeps over them. Its messy but there is nothing held back. He doesn’t partially reserve a little caution or a little dignity. Its all there. Unrestrained. An expression of overflowing love.
Joseph was only human and this can only be considered an incomplete representation of the forgiveness we receive in Jesus. Jesus grace is more glorious, more loving, deeper, purer and more enthusiastic whilst also being more narrowly defined. Being forgiven by Him is heartfelt, unrestrained, emotional and complete.