Have you ever been betrayed? Did someone you trusted, prove treacherous? Would you like to be free of the pain of it? The Bible tells us to forgive those who trespass or sin against us. Is forgiveness possible when one is horribly wronged? Absolutely! The Bible account of Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers in Genesis 37 teaches an important lesson about forgiveness.
Joseph was sent by his father, Jacob, to check on his older brothers who were caring for the sheep. He wore his favorite coat of many colors, a fantastic coat Jacob had given him. Unfortunately, it had earned him the envy of his brothers.
When Joseph caught up to the brothers, they could see him coming because of the fancy coat. Hatred and jealousy overtook them, causing the bitterness to rise up in their hearts. To them the coat was a demonstration of their father’s indulgence and worshipful favor towards Joseph. Before he ever arrived at their camp, the decision to kill him was made.
Betrayal by a friend or loved one is devastating. A breach of such magnitude often has long lasting and traumatic consequences.
Not Joseph. He had come to realize that God had a special plan for his life. God had showed Joseph in a dream the future famine and the submission of his father and brothers. Joseph continued to find favor with God. Before long, Joseph was in a position to help people survive the famine.
Many years later Joseph and his brothers were reunited in Egypt. Joseph expressed his forgiveness to them, and explained the mission God had given him:
“And Joseph said unto his brethren, come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” Genesis 45:4-8, KJV
It would be so easy to hold a grudge and seek vengeance. Jesus understands how we feel. He was betrayed by Judas, and went to the cross to die for the sins of mankind. While on the cross, He showed us what we should do in a similar situation.
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
Jesus didn’t just say the words, He meant them. He told the people how to respond to others in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:43-45a:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven…”
Jesus never said it would be easy, but He did set the example for us on the cross. How could we do any less?