But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
- Genesis 50:19-21
Joseph had already forgiven his brothers, but his brothers feared that he would go back on his oath now that their father had died. Maybe they had this fear because they would not hesitate to get revenge if afforded the opportunity. I had an old boss’ boss who was a kindly man and he clued me into how bosses judge subordinates – in suspecting them to do the rotten things that they themselves did. Note: You might want to think of that the next time your boss questions your intentions or motivations.
But I was talking to God the other day while some pastors were having a panel discussion on television. They closed their program with Genesis 50:20 above, about how what Joseph’s brothers meant for evil, good meant for good.
When that verse was quoted, I imagined a little “coffee klatch” in Heaven (for lack of a better word) with a few of the bosses, not all, who had done what I thought was evil. They had certainly ruined my career here or there and robbed me of promotions, pay raises, etc.
Among the group was the boss who considered me to be illiterate. He sent me to two different technical writing courses and then wrote a two-page letter about how I was still illiterate when in fact, I had copied one of his own letters word-for-word except for the title and signature block. It was a basic form letter asking approval for a variance in procedure for purchasing the same thing rather than going out for the lowest bid – thus saving spare part costs. I was so sick of his prejudice that I showed him the two letters and defied him to prove my illiteracy. He flew into a rage and kicked me out of his office. He had been caught in his hatred of me that had nothing to do with my quality of work.
Also in the group was my next boss’ boss who once said, “You do ten times as much work and at better quality than the rest of your department combined [three other people – thus 30 times more work than any one individual], but management has allowed me to fire someone, and I chose you. Nothing personal.” The company had quirky rules, both in allowing a manager to fire someone and in how to deal with the person being fired. I went to another department to prove myself and after six months, this guy still wanted to fire me, drunk with power, but my new boss told him that he would urinate into this guy’s coffee if he fired me. My job was safe, but I did not get a pay raise for a few years. I ended up working as a manager but getting paid less than the janitor.
A couple of others were in this “daydream vision.” The faces seemed a blur. I could give details of other bosses, from physical abuse to mental torture, but I cannot claim that the fuzzy faces were those specific people.
And the one who wanted to fire me said roughly what Joseph said, as if to get a thank you from me for them “ruining” my life and the lives of my family.
You see, Joseph’s words work great when you are the forgiver, but they land as mockery when others are fishing for gratitude for having done evil.
For a moment, and just a moment, I stopped all other thought. I seethed in anger at the comment – the renewed memory of past injustice. But then, I saw myself in Jesus’ place on the cross. He forgave them for they knew not what they were doing. I realized that God can forgive anyone. We might see anyone in Heaven, and I am commanded to forgive or I will not be forgiven. It is still up to me to take the high road and tell them that they are forgiven because God has me where He wants me in spite of their doing me and my family harm. It is not for them to ask for gratitude for having done evil, but I do forgive them, for the same reason Joseph forgave his brothers.
Then, I thought about what other awkward encounters I might have in Heaven. Who else might God have forgiven when I thought they were firmly in the enemy’s camp? There are others that I know, some that I have loved, that never seemed to have the capacity for forgiveness – not accepting apologies and never asking to be forgiven. Yet, God can work wonders in people’s hearts.
Might I see some politicians in Heaven, some current politicians?
Wait!!! That’s just crazy talk.
But God’s Love and forgiveness is boundless. And miracles happen.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.