True Forgiveness Admits That Someone Has Wronged You

Do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.
–Genesis 45:5

The book of Genesis spends more time on the life of Joseph than on any other major figures. Why does God give so much ink to the story of Joseph? I believe it’s because Joseph illustrates the most important decision any person can make–the decision to forgive. That decision has enormous ramifications. Think about it: What if Joseph had chosen not to forgive his brothers? Suppose they had come before him asking for food. What if Joseph had responded, “Food? It’s funny you should mention food. I was just thinking about how hungry I was when you left me for dead in that stinking pit. Forget it! No food for you.” What would have happened if Joseph had allowed his brothers to die? Not only would the brothers have died, but there would have been no nation of Israel. These brothers were the progenitors of the entire nation of Israel. If Joseph had not forgiven, there would have been no brothers, no Israel. You say, “What’s the big deal about that?” If there had been no Israel, then there would have been no Jesus Christ. If there had been no Jesus Christ, then there would have been no Savior of the world, and you and I would have been left to suffer the consequences of our sin. Joseph’s decision to forgive not only affected his life, but it affected every one of us as well.

Joseph’s story not only inspires us to forgive, but it instructs us on how to forgive. There are several principles about genuine forgiveness that we find in the story of Joseph.

Principle number one is this: true forgiveness admits that somebody has wronged you. Have you ever heard people say, “Quit blaming other people for what they have done to you”? That’s well-meaning advice, but it’s also terrible advice. Refusing to blame people can short-circuit the forgiveness process. The fact is, you can only forgive people you are first willing to blame. You must be willing to blame somebody before you can forgive them. You have to acknowledge that they indeed have wronged you.

When Joseph finally confronted his brothers, he didn’t say, “Well, you must have just been having a bad day when you left me in that pit. Let’s let bygones be bygones.” He didn’t say, “You are partly to blame, but I was partly to blame too, strutting around in my multicolored coat.” Instead, Joseph was very direct with his brothers. He said, “You meant evil against me” (Genesis 50:20). He was telling the truth. Does that show Joseph hadn’t forgiven? No. He went on to say, “But God meant it for good.” Joseph understood that you cannot forgive people you are not willing to blame. We need to be willing to acknowledge that people have wronged us before we can forgive them.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Granting the Gift of Forgiveness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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