Joseph … cried, “Have everyone go out from me.” So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.
True forgiveness resists unnecessary embarrassment. If you are going to express your forgiveness, you want to do so in such a way that minimizes any embarrassment. Look at Genesis 45:1, “Joseph … cried, ‘Have everyone go out from me.’ So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.” Why did Joseph clear the room? It was because Joseph didn’t want to embarrass his brothers. If you truly forgive somebody, you want to minimize the embarrassment on their part. There are some unique instances in which that person’s offense has to be reported, but if you have forgiven somebody, then you will deal with their sin as privately as possible.
Next, true forgiveness relieves people of unhealthy sorrow. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 we learn that there are two kinds of sorrow. There is a godly sorrow that leads to repentance, and there is a worldly sorrow that leads to death. If you have forgiven somebody, then you want them to experience the relief that comes from forgiveness. Now, it’s not nearly as much fun to relieve somebody of their guilt as it is to see them squirm in it, is it? But that’s not forgiveness; that’s vengeance. If we have really forgiven somebody, then we want to see them relieved of an unhealthy guilt. That was true of Joseph. In Genesis 45:5 he told his brothers, “Do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here.” Why? “For God sent me before you to preserve life.” He was saying: “Yes, what you did was wrong. You have repented of it. I forgive you. Don’t continue to beat yourself up over this, because God used your offenses to bring about His perfect plan for my life and for your lives.” That is genuine forgiveness–a desire to relieve people of unhealthy sorrow and guilt.
Next, true forgiveness continually releases our offender of their obligation. I wish I could tell you that if you forgive one time, it is a once-for-all action. But the truth is, you have to keep on forgiving. What motivated Joseph to forgive? Certainly, it was his belief in the sovereignty of God. That is why he said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). You will never be able to forgive until you believe God is bigger than the person who has hurt you. You will never be able to forgive until you really believe that nothing comes into your life except through the perfect plan of God. God is able to take the worst things that have been done to you and use them for your good and His glory. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Joseph forgave because he believed in the sovereignty of God. And he was ready to experience the freedom that comes from forgiveness. What about you? Are you exhausted from rehearsing in your mind that offense that happened so long ago? Are you ready to experience the freedom that comes from forgiveness? Make that choice today.
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.