What does forgiveness look like in the
Bible? We have all heard different points of view from different
ministers. They seem to have a set pattern on the rules of
forgiveness. They have tests for when to forgive, who to
forgive, how to forgive, what to forgive, why we forgive, where
After looking at all this research and
then looking at the Bible, the surprise is that there is no set
pattern. There are many different individual responses, actions,
resolutions, and conclusions for every person. God tests us and
with these tests we often experience mistreatment from others.
We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people so
forgiveness is always going to be a part of our life. There will
never be a set pattern because we are all uniquely different and
each situation creates its own individual ending.
After we examine the Bible and analyze the
many varied encounters concerning forgiveness, the truth about
forgiveness is that God’s commands must be heeded. God knows
everything and He has everything under control. He always knows
what He is doing. The person or persons involved with
manipulating circumstances in your life in order to harm you can
only do this if God allows these events to take place.
However, this does not eliminate our need
to pray because God does move through our prayers. Even though
God allows events to take place, we must always pray for His
perfect will and bring our petitions before His throne so He has
the final say for everything in our lives.
The story of Joseph is the first time
“forgive” is mentioned in the Bible. This was truly surprising
to me. However, I have always been impressed with Joseph. Of all
the people in the Bible, I felt he was treated harshly when it
came to being tested by God. It never says that Joseph committed
any sin in which he deserved punishment.
We all remember the story of Job. Job was
a righteous man (Ez. 14:14, 20). God also said this about Job “Have
you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on
the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and
shuns evil?” (Job 1:8). Job
suffered physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually but
I think what made Joseph’s test seem severe in my eyes was that
he was accused of something that he did not do and then he was
thrown in prison for it. Job was accused of being a sinner by
his friends but he was never punished by them or thrown in
prison for it. However, Job did feel that God was punishing him
which is truly one of the worst types of suffering. It never
says that Joseph felt God was punishing him but he must have
been devastated with the calamities which befell him. The most
important lesson in this whole account is Joseph knew that God
allowed this situation and this was all part of His perfect
Joseph lost his family. His mother died
in childbirth (Gen 35:17-19) after his younger brother was born.
The only family member who loved him was his father (Gen. 37:3).
His brothers hated him because of their father not for anything
that he did. Although after he told them his dream, they hated
him even more (Gen 37:4). His brothers could not hold peaceful
conversation with Joseph.
They did not rejoice with their brother
when God had given him a dream. No one, not even his father
appreciated the dream that God had given him. Joseph felt
blessed and he truly loved God. He was kidnapped and taken away
from his father (Gen 37:23-24). His brothers sold him as a slave
(Gen. 37:26-27). As a slave, he was accused of rape which was an
untruth and thrown in prison (Gen 39:7-20).
What can you learn from Joseph? The Bible
never tells us what Joseph went through but you cannot help but
notice his truly loving heart toward God. It never says that
Joseph forgave his brothers. The mention of the word forgive
came from his brothers mouth after the death of Jacob their
father. They did not ask for forgiveness. They said that there
father said that Joseph should forgive them for what they had
done to him.
They assumed that Joseph needed to forgive
them. They were telling Joseph what he needed to do. He needed
to forgive. Of course you must remember that Joseph was the boss
over all of them. He was second in command in Egypt. The amazing
part of this story is that the perpetrators were telling the
victim that he needed to forgive. Of course the reason they said
those things were because they were afraid for themselves. They
assumed the only reason Joseph took care of them was because of
their father because the only reason they hated Joseph in the
first place was because of their father.
The real reality is Joseph never sunk to
their level. Joseph was never like them. Joseph’s brothers assumed that Joseph was
like them but as we read the account of Joseph’s life that is
completely not true. They needed Joseph to forgive them so they
would not be mistreated. Joseph had the power and authority to
kill them all without any reason or permission. However, Joseph
did not need to forgive them because he knew that God allowed
these events to take place in his life in order to complete
God’s perfect will.
The one thing that stands out
the most about this introduction to forgiveness is that you
don’t need to forgive someone if you don’t hold them
responsible. Joseph never forgave his brothers because he did
not hold them responsible. He looked solely to God and knew that
God allowed this situation for a reason. Joseph was not in
denial. He knew his brothers had planned evil against him but he
knew God allowed the situation to happen for His perfect will in
order to save many lives.
Genesis 50: 15-21
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they
said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us
for all the evil which we did to him.”
So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father
died he commanded, saying,
‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the
trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to
you.”’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the
God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and
they said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for
good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many
Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your
little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Response: Joseph’s response was
that he believed that “God meant it for good”. He did not need
to forgive because he knew God had everything under His control.
Action: He loved his brothers and
supplied their needs during and after the famine and even after
their father’s death. He never attempted to subject revenge on
his brothers for the evil they had perpetrated against him.
Resolution: His resolutions was
assisting his brothers even after his father’s death, comforting
them, and speaking kindly. Joseph gave them physical assistance,
emotional support, and soothing verbal compassion.
Conclusion: Sometimes the victim
does not need to forgive the perpetrator...especially if the
victim realizes the real truth which is, God is always in
And we know that all things
work together for good to those who love God, to those who are
the called according to His purpose.