Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our reading from Genesis 50:15-21 brings up a perpetual human problem. The brothers of Joseph had offended him severely. They had sinned against him by selling him into slavery where he was mistreated for years. Joseph, however, had risen to a position of authority in Egypt. He was now responsible for saving the people of Israel and Egypt from starvation. Joseph had revealed himself to his brothers and they had lived in harmony for some years. However, at this time, their father had died. Joseph’s brothers wondered if he had really forgiven them or if they should plan for his revenge once his father was dead.
It’s an important question. What do we mean by forgiveness? Is the peace we have transacted with someone real peace or are we simply waiting for retribution?
Joseph showed his brothers he had made peace with them. He intended to live in harmony with them. As much as he was able he intended to care for them. He would not be trying to harm them. This is what forgiveness looks like. I often remind people that forgiveness means I will not dwell on past sin, I will not bring it up to harm anyone, I will not let it interfere with our relationship, and I will guard against the sin happening again. That’s forgiveness.
The New Testament describes Jesus purchasing forgiveness for all humanity, who have sinned against God. His forgiveness is also absolutely real. We, who have sinned against God, have no need to be like Joseph’s brothers. We do not need to fear that God’s forgiveness is not real. He always keeps his promises.
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