Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God.
—Genesis 45:8

How do you forgive those who have wronged you? Let me point out four characteristics of genuine forgiveness. First, true forgiveness resists unnecessary embarrassment. If you have truly forgiven another person, you will not try to embarrass him. We see that in Genesis 45:1. Before Joseph dealt with his brothers, he had all the servants leave the house. Why is that? It’s because Joseph did not want his brothers, who would end up living in Egypt, to be marked men among the other Egyptian residents. So he dealt with his brothers privately.

Second, true forgiveness relieves the offender of unhealthy guilt or grief. Look at verse 5: “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Joseph said, “Don’t wallow in pity and grief over what you did to me—God is the one who sent me here.” If we haven’t really forgiven somebody, we like to see him squirm and become uncomfortable. But that shows we truly have not forgiven him. Joseph was saying, “You have wronged me, but don’t stay paralyzed by your grief. Let’s move on with our relationship.”

Third, true forgiveness releases our offender of their obligation to us. We see that in verse 10. The brothers deserved death for what they had done to Joseph. Instead, Joseph invited them to settle in the land of Goshen, the most fertile part of all of Egypt. Instead of giving them what they deserved, he gave them what they didn’t deserve–grace. And it’s the same way when you forgive somebody. When you forgive somebody you don’t give them what they deserve; you give them what they need. True forgiveness will release our offender of his or her obligation.

Fourth and most essentially, true forgiveness focuses on the sovereignty of God. Look at how many times in Genesis 45 Joseph mentions God’s role in the suffering he experienced. You will never be free to forgive until you believe God is bigger than your offender. God is able to take people’s worst actions and attitudes toward you and use them for your good and for His glory. That was the key to Joseph’s forgiveness. He looked past the wrong actions and attitudes of his brothers and saw the hand of God. Had it not been for his brothers selling him into slavery, he would not have ended up in Egypt, second in command to Pharaoh, able to provide salvation to the entire world because of the grain preserved there.

Some of you have been hurt deeply by someone. I am convinced of this: you will never be emotionally and spiritually free until you believe in the power of a God so great, so loving, and so wise that He is able to cause all things to work together for your good and His glory.

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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.

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