But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. (Genesis 50:19-20)
This week we explore the story of Joseph. It is a long narrative filled with a cocky younger brother, angry older brothers, betrayal, famine, political intrigue, and danger. In the process, relationships are severed and a family is nearly torn apart. It is a story of intrigue and struggle.
But the end of the story is instructive in the verses above. In the end, Joseph and his alienated brothers are able to forgive and reconcile. What was torn apart by jealousy and anger was repaired by forgiveness. While nothing could change what had happened, the ability to forgive was able to change the outcomes. In other words, forgiveness cannot change the past – but it can change the future.
We live in a world where divisiveness is almost always either in our face or just around the corner. Facebook posts and family discussions can turn ugly with just one bad sentence. And so many things happening to us at once – elections, political rancor, the pandemic, the recession – are pounding at all of us. Add to it our own personal problems and relationships and it can be a lot to bear. Is it any wonder that all too often we find ourselves at odds with people we work with, live near and even the ones we love?
That’s why forgiveness is such an important thing. We can’t change the past. But with forgiveness, we begin a journey to change the future. It is the first step in freeing ourselves from bearing the pain inflicted by someone else. It is the first step in restoring some chance of renewed relationships, perhaps not exactly like the previous ones, but maybe a bit deeper as a result.
God in Christ offers forgiveness in Jesus’ name. In other words, forgiving the people you are mad at is already done by God. You and I just need to get with the program. God, who looks over and loves all of us, is saddened by each of our failures. But the death and resurrection of Jesus tell us that God will do anything to love us – even die. And God will do anything to renew life with us – even come back from the dead.
So forgiveness will not change your past – you have to make peace with your own journey. But forgiveness can change your future – the way ahead can be quite different if you let grace lead you down the road.