"But Joseph replied, ‘Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.’ So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them" (NLT) Genesis 50:19-21
If you have ever been the object of deep-seated hatred, you can at least identify with the ordeal Joseph endured. What made his case most traumatizing was that the perpetrators of this unthinkable act of hatred were his own brothers, not of affinity but of consanguinity. Joseph’s brothers just couldn’t accommodate the notion that he was destined to be the greatest. They would rather treat him as a piece of merchandise than to see him as the merchant of their household. “Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams” (Genesis 37:20b, NLT). Good riddance of a dreamer, they may have thought.
Indeed, Joseph turned out to be not just a mere dreamer but the dream of God. He demonstrated these sterling qualities with how he treated his brothers. What will you do when your enemies, trying to get away from you, unwittingly run into your trap? Sweet victory, isn’t it? Not Joseph! He rather applied Romans 12:20. “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their head”. We can glean three principles from the life of Joseph to make us more forgiving.
1. Vengeance belongs to God (Read Romans 12:19)
The conquerors of antiquity and medieval times, from the Babylonians to the Romans had a common notion: “The fruit of vengeance tastes sweet”. For them to avenge the death of their forebears and to rule was the whole duty of a king. Yet we can see that it is only the kingdom of Christ that is eternal. Why? This is because He was the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Joseph knew so well that vengeance belonged to God: “Am I God, that I can punish you?” His (Joseph) job was to love and forgive his brothers (Hebrews 13:1).
2. Put things in perspective (Read Romans 8:28)
Joseph knew from his dreams that he was meant for great things and no matter how convoluted his path might have been, he was indeed the dream of God. For Joseph, his brothers selling him to Egypt and subsequently incarcerated for a sin he never committed was all part of God’s grand plan to bring him to the dream. If you will see things from the angle of God and you don’t remain bitter and vengeful when you are wronged, God can hew from this mole of bad treatment, a mountain of blessings. Just keep the right attitude!
3. Pay evil with good (Read Romans 12:17)
One of the most honourable things to do in the sight of God is to pay evil with good. A lot of people, including Christians will find this principle very hard to imbibe. You may claim to have forgiven the person but when you find out that he is sick, will you pray for him? When he is in desperate need of any help, will you offer help even if your life depended on it? “Serves him right! God is paying him for his evils”, you might think. No! Your debt to him is to keep on loving him (Romans 13:8). Like Joseph, reassure the person with kind words and generous deeds.