[Judah said,] “Please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of Benjamin, and let the boy return with his brothers.”
It was Judah who pulled his brother Joseph from the pit, decades earlier, rescuing him from the murderous determinations of his other brothers. Judah quickly negotiated a deal to sell Joseph to human traffickers. This was an act which spared Joseph’s life, but was far from gracious.
Joseph’s road of forgiveness would have been arduous. His commitment to the journey would have been steadfast — or he never would have had this opportunity for restoration.
In Genesis 44 Benjamin is the one on the block. His fate, in the moment, appears the same as Joseph’s was years before. It didn’t look like much could be done to keep Benjamin from losing his family and becoming a prisoner for the remainder of his life.
Judah again steps up to pull a brother from the pit. Only this time something radically different happens. Judah spares Benjamin’s life by sacrificing his own — he throws himself in the pit in his brother’s place.
In this act Joseph saw something in Judah which un-forgiveness of him would have masked. We don’t fully know what Judah went through after abandoning Joseph, but it must have been a journey that deepened his commitment to justice. Judah was no longer self-protecting. Now he was self-sacrificing.
It’s far easier to never give our offenders another chance — effectively locking our view of their character to their darkest hour. Joseph’s decision to release Judah not only restored their relationship, it reunited Joseph with his father again. This simple, but costly, choice saved Joseph’s family, grew an entire nation, and ultimately paved the way for the Messiah.
“Forgiveness founders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners,” explains Miroslav Volf in Exclusion and Embrace.
It was Christ who, like Joseph, saw us in our darkest hour yet forgive us.
It was Christ who, like Judah, rescued us from the pit by throwing himself in on our behalf.
We come to God’s grace like Joseph’s family came to the grain in Egypt: famished from our search and saved by its nourishment.
Lord, your forgiveness — your grace — is our greatest joy. You saw us while we were yet sinners and choose to love and pursue us. You sacrificed your son on our behalf. We want to live as examples of your forgiveness. Help us to share with others the great joy of your salvation.
Faith in Forgiveness
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org