How can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants.
–Genesis 44:16

True forgiveness waits for the right time to confront our offender. Forgiveness depends only on you, but reconciliation depends on a number of things. If you are going to reconcile with your offender, then he has to demonstrate repentance. He has to be aware of the hurt, and that means you need to let him know you are forgiving him and make steps toward reconciliation.

Now, that was true in the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph wanted to be reunited with his brothers. But first, he wanted to know if they were repentant for what they did to him. In Genesis 44, the brothers asked for food so they could return to Canaan. “Then [Joseph] commanded his house steward, saying, ‘Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack. Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain.’ And he did as Joseph had told him” (vv. 1-2). Joseph was framing them to see if they were repentant. Joseph’s steward followed the brothers, opened the sacks, and found the silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. So he dragged them back to face the wrath of this leader of Egypt. Judah bowed before Joseph and said, “How can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants” (v. 16). What iniquity? They hadn’t done anything wrong; they had been framed. That was not the sin Judah was confessing. Judah was saying, “God is finally dealing with us for what we did to Joseph.” Joseph sensed repentance, but he wanted to know: “Are they sorry for getting caught or are they truly sorry?” So he told his brothers to leave Benjamin with him and then the rest of them could go home. That seemed to be a good deal. But Judah made this plea: “Please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers” (v. 33). Judah was saying, “I’ll trade my life for Benjamin’s. I will take his place.” At that point, Joseph knew his brothers were ready to receive his forgiveness and to be reconciled.

The only time you ever verbalize forgiveness to the other person is when they are ready to receive your forgiveness and to be reconciled. How do you know if the person is ready to be reconciled? Here are a few questions to ask:

  1. Does that person show any remorse for what he did to you?
  2. Is he willing to speak to you instead of avoiding you?
  3. Has he given any hints that he is interested in reconciling with you?
  4. Does he evidence any change in his life?

If any of these answers is no, then keep your forgiveness between you and God. But if you sense there is some remorse, repentance, and desire for reconciliation, then that is the time you verbalize your forgiveness of somebody in order to lead to reconciliation.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Granting the Gift of Forgiveness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are 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.