We pray in the Lord’s prayer that God should forgive us as we forgive others who sin against us. That petition lays upon us a heavy burden, to forgive everyone who sins against us in the same way that God forgives us. That is not always easy. We have been hurt so deeply that we have a great amount of difficulty even thinking about forgiving that person let alone actually doing it. In his mercy God comes to us not only with the command to forgive but with the help we need to do what he tells us to do. That kind of help is found in Genesis 50:19.
Joseph was the second youngest son of Jacob. All ten older brothers were jealous of Joseph because of the love that Jacob showed to him. One day his father told him to go and check on his brothers who were out in the distant pasture. The brothers sold Joseph as a slave to some traders going by who took him to Egypt where he became a slave. He had no opportunity even to say goodbye to his father or to his younger brother Benjamin. After a few years had passed during which time he was a slave he was able to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and was given authority over the whole land of Egypt to gather the grain during the seven years of bountiful harvest that were followed by seven years of famine. During the second year of the famine the brothers came to buy grain. Joseph arranged that the brothers together with their father Jacob and all their families should move to Egypt so that they would not die during the famine.
Jacob died about 10 years later and the brothers realized that Joseph might hold a grudge and get revenge on them. So they begged him to forgive them. Joseph assured them that he had already forgiven them and added some very helpful words: “Am I in the place of God? You meant it for evil but God meant it for good to save many people alive.”
Joseph realized if he did not forgive his brothers he would be taking the place of God and sit in judgment on his brothers that they were not deserving of forgiveness. That teaches us that when we do not forgive others we are in fact saying they should receive the punishment they deserve for their deeds. That is a judgment God has reserved for himself. Joseph realized because God had forgiven him, he could and needed to forgive also his brothers.
And then Joseph added another helpful observation that God is able to turn something good out of that which to us seems to be evil. So many are the sins that I and you have committed against God and he has forgiven everyone of them for the sake of his son Jesus Christ.
Then we look at that one or two sins with which somebody has hurt us very deeply and we forgive instantly, without hesitation, and in our heart we thank God that we can forgive as he has forgiven us.
Pastor. Family of Christ Lutheran Church