Once you decide to forgive their past: what about their future?

March 2, 2012

Joseph chose to forgive.

I don’t wish to speak to that right now.

It’s where and when he chose to forgive that is occupying my mind.

Clear the room

Joseph asked all the Egyptians to leave the room when he made himself known to his brothers. He forgave them. He let them feel the evil they had done to him. He also proclaimed that none other than God Himself had used the evil of man for good.

His brothers had a wicked past. However, Joseph wanted them to have a bright future. They were going to move to Egypt, dwell in the best of the land, and be favored in the eyes of Pharaoh.

Had Joseph confronted his brothers in front of the Egyptians, they would have placed a black spot on what could have been a bright future.

You forgave: others might not

The Egyptians revered Joseph. When Joseph’s family was transplanted in Egypt, they would have met opposition. At a minimum the Egyptians would have treated them with some prejudice because of the injustice of their past actions.

Pharaoh opened wide his favor to Israel. This wouldn’t have been the case had he known how Joseph came to be in Egypt in the first place.

Joseph also told his brothers to go tell Jacob that he was alive. He didn’t command them to confess. This confession would have made them stink in the nostrils of their aged father.

Joseph wanted closure not disclosure.

Who needs to know?

When we forgive we must decide what we want the guilty party’s future to look like.

If we don’t care, we tell everyone the full story. The offender will forever be marked by their past.

The other option is to keep the past as contained as possible. Confront in context. Clear the room. Only those directly affected are allowed access to the confrontation.

Perhaps you depart friends.

Or not.

At least the offender moves forward without their past hanging over their head. Or worse.

It’s your choice.

You are never more like Jesus than when you repay evil with good.


Disclaimer: In some cases you cannot contain the confrontation (e.g., sexual offenders, physical abuse). Pastors, elders, and even congregations must be alerted, depending on church policies and local law. Those situations are the exception and not the rule.