15 when joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “it may be that joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 so they sent a message to joseph, saying, “your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘say to joseph, “please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ and now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” joseph wept when they spoke to him. — [genesis 50:15-17]

what does true forgiveness look like? does forgiveness have an expiration date? does forgiveness have outside conditions that can enforce or nullify it?

forgiving others who have hurt us deeply is not easy. yet this message sent to joseph from his brothers reminds us that accepting forgiveness can be just as difficult.

twice in this letter, the brothers stated, “please forgive”. joseph’s response was to weep. why? because he had already forgiven them, and in his mind, this was settled and over with.

joseph must have been overwhelmed with emotions, through his faith and through God’s steadfast faithfulness to him, joseph had led a remarkable life. joseph’s integrity, honesty, and devotion to God were evident to even pharaoh himself.  yet his brothers simply could not believe or accept that they were truly forgiven.

by constantly questioning this forgiveness, they were robbing themselves of the joy, peace, and freedom that joseph was able to experience. in forgiveness, joseph was no longer tethered to the pain of the past, but focused on his present and future, living in God’s will. joseph wept because his brothers had not yet experienced that freedom.

when we learn to offer forgiveness as freely as joseph, we experience the same peace. in the same way, like his brothers, we may feel unworthy before God, and tend to ask him repeatedly if we are still forgiven. when we learn to accept and trust the forgiveness that is ours in Christ, we are free to offer it to others, and enjoy a full life focused not on the pain of the past, but the joy that is ours in Christ.

~ jason soroski