Joseph 3: Forgiveness – thoughts from Duncan’s sermon this morning


The Old Testament Bible passage today was Genesis 45:1-8, where Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers after they had come to Egypt seeking food during the years of famine.

Duncan explored the theme of forgiveness, taking as his starting point the parable in Matthew 18:21-35 which teaches us, he said that ‘we are called to be people who forgive. And the basis for that forgiving heart is the realisation and experience that as we have been forgiven much by God in our lives.’

He continued ‘In the parable, the man is forgiven a debt of a million pounds, and then he refuses to forgive someone else a debt of a pound.

The man has failed to appreciate the extent of the forgiveness he has received, and so in the parable, he is given justice, not mercy for his debts.

Forgiveness is a core part of our identity as children of God. As we have been forgiven, so we are called to be forgiving people.

We are to reflect the family values.

To live as Jesus lived.

To forgive as Jesus forgave.’

And here’s the concluding section of the sermon, when Duncan focussed on Genesis 45:1-18:

The forgiveness of Joseph

Joseph forgives!

This forgiveness is not the end of the story, but the beginning.

Joseph forgives!

This is the first recorded incident of forgiveness in the Bible.

Joseph showed a better way for the world then and now – the way of forgiveness.

Joseph has all his brothers in front of him, and he has the power to turn the tables on them.

He has a choice.

He could have chosen revenge.

He choses reconciliation and forgiveness.

Forgiveness in our lives

I wonder how this story of forgiveness touches you today as you perhaps think of your family networks or other relationships?

It’s not an easy issue to grapple with. There is complexity in our lives and relationships which calls for a great deal of wisdom and grace.

Indeed, I wouldn’t recommend that you simply take Joseph’s lead in this story and go around forgiving everyone. Let’s be clear that Joseph was on a long road towards this moment of releasing, of having compassion, of forgiving his brothers.

Somewhere over the years of imprisonment and struggle, and even success he began to see God’s hand in what was an awful situation. It no doubt took a long time before he began to glimpse this.

Joseph didn’t minimise the sins of his brothers – ‘….you sold me into slavery….but God used even that evil act for good!’

That’s the good news of the gospel today.

Joseph was able to see that evil actions could be transformed by God for Good. This fact is what our faith and hope is centred around. Evil actions on the cross against Jesus are transformed into resurrection and new life and hope.

‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing,’ said Jesus as he was dying. (Luke 23:34)

As God in his compassion extends his forgiveness to us may we also be moved towards forgiveness.

‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’ (Matthew 6:12)

(Forgiveness is a big subject, as Duncan said. He intended the sermon as a discussion starter, to get us reflecting on the implictions for our lives of the Christian challenge to live forgivingly. Please do add your thoughts on the subject as comments below.)


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