3. THE VALUE OF FORGIVENESS.
When Joseph was seventeen years old he was sold into slavery by his own brothers! They were going to kill him but decided instead to sell him to the Midianites (cf. Gen. 37). They told their father Jacob that Joseph had been killed by wild animals. Therefore, Jacob didn't go looking for Joseph. Put yourself in Joseph's sandals--could you forgive those who wanted to kill you? Could you forgive those who sold you as a slave? Joseph could and did.
As you read through the end of Genesis, you can see that Joseph remained true to God, even though he was enslaved. He ended up in prison for doing the right thing. Eventually, God blessed him with a position of great power and authority in Egypt. From the time in which Joseph was reunited with his brothers, they evidently always worried that he would repay them for the wickedness they had committed against him so many years earlier. After their father Jacob died, they sent a message to Joseph, supposedly from their father, which said - "'I beg you, please forgive the trespasses of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.' And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, 'Behold, we are your servants.' Joseph said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive'" (Gen. 50:17-20). Joseph would not return evil for evil. In fact, he realized that their wickedness had actually led to much good being accomplished (though that was certainly not their intention). Joseph forgave them. What an example for us today! He likely had the authority to have them put to death if he so desired. Undoubtedly, he had the means and opportunity to get even but instead forgave them. He would not harm them, but rather he chose to provide for them and their families (cf. Gen. 50:21).
We can definitely learn the value of forgiveness from Joseph. We should imitate his attitude. Have you ever heard anyone say: "I can forgive him, but I don't want to get too close to him any more"? This wasn't Joseph's attitude. He forgave his brothers and even had them move to Egypt with him. If Joseph had not forgiven them and perhaps decided to pursue vengeance, their descendents would not have carried his bones out of Egypt (which was his desire)! Joseph wanted to be close with them. Thus, he treated them as if their wickedness against him had never occurred. That's what true forgiveness is all about. You haven't truly forgiven a person if you can't act the same way toward them that you did before they sinned against you!
Today we must learn to forgive. As Paul said in Ephesians 4:32 - "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." Jesus forgives when people believe in Him, repent of their sins and are baptized (cf. Acts 2:38). And, He requires that we forgive those who sin against us, if they repent (cf. Luke 17:3). He taught in Matthew 6:14,15 - "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
As Jesus concluded the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:35, He said - "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." Joseph was willing to forgive his penitent brothers. Are we willing to forgive as God would have us to? It's a lot easier to forgive others when we realize just how much God has forgiven us! We must forgive or we will pay a terrible price. We will not enjoy an eternal home in heaven, and we will not have true inner peace on Earth!