Revenge or forgiveness?

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Genesis 43:26 When Joseph came home, (his brothers) brought him the present that they had carried into the house, and bowed to the ground before him. 27 He inquired about their welfare, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and did obeisance. 29 Then he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 With that, Joseph hurried out, because he was overcome with affection for his brother, and he was about to weep. So he went into a private room and wept there.

If you’re familiar with this story you know that Joseph was an arrogant youngster and the favorite of his father Jacob. His brothers resented this and, while Joseph was a teenager, threw him into a deep pit to die. After being rescued from the pit, Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt. But God was with him and so Joseph prospered. He rose to become the second in command in all Egypt. Here his brothers are arrived from Canaan to buy food for their family. They don’t know that Joseph is the one they are dealing with, thinking he’s an Egyptian official, though Joseph knows who they are. Joseph proceeds to play mind games with them, giving them grief while deciding what he will do with them. In our passage above Joseph begins to soften. V.30 tells us Joseph is deeply moved to meet the youngest son in the family, a brother he’d never met before.

Will Joseph give his brothers what they deserve or will he forgive them?

I can only imagine the inner conflict Joseph was feeling. He’d probably imagined many times what he would do to his hateful brothers if given the chance. He’d make them pay. But when the moment of truth arrives Joseph instead had mercy on them and forgave them. I look forward to reading the next few chapters as this reconciliation unfolds for us readers.

I know what it is to be mistreated by others, as I expect do you. Revenge is a temptation as old as humanity itself. I’m not sure I could have done what Joseph did. But what Joseph’s story reveals is what can happen when we DO forgive. Forgiveness empowers us to set aside the sting of past hurts and move on. In fact, as happened to Joseph, forgiveness can mend a broken heart and give us peace instead of bitterness.

Heavenly Father you have forgiven us so much through your son Jesus. Teach us to be merciful as you are merciful. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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