He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.
—Genesis 45:15

The key to receiving forgiveness is repentance, and the key to granting forgiveness is faith. In the story of Joseph in Genesis, we see that Judah said, “We cannot leave. I will stay. I will take the punishment for Benjamin’s sake.” When he heard that, Joseph couldn’t contain himself any longer. He realized his brothers had truly repented. They were in a position to receive the forgiveness he wanted to give them.

“Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, ‘Have everyone go out from me.’ So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.” He rid the palace of the slaves. “He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it” (v. 2). Can you imagine those servants outside the chambers hearing the governor wail like they had never heard before? “Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence” (v. 3).

That’s probably one of the great understatements in the Bible. They were dismayed. Here was the brother they had sold into slavery, a brother they assumed was dead. Then Joseph said, “Please come closer to me” (v. 4). Can’t you just see the sweat pouring down their faces? They knew they were goners. But he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, “God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have” (vv. 4-10). Then Joseph kissed all of his brothers, wept on them, and his brothers talked with him.

When we read this remarkable story, we understand why the story of Joseph commands more space in the book of Genesis than all the other patriarchs. Joseph illustrates the most important decision you will ever make in your life–the choice to forgive the person who has wronged you. There are certainly physical benefits to choosing to forgive. But there’s a spiritual healing that comes with forgiveness as well. Forgiveness is not optional–it’s essential for salvation.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Life’s Most Important Choice” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.