But Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones." Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen. 50:19-21)Joseph was a tenderhearted man, and as the text repeatedly notes, he was often moved to tears (50:17; cf. 42:24; 45:1-2). Reflective of such a spirit is the way Joseph forgave his brothers. In 50:19-21 I see several great lessons:
1) Forgiveness begins with the recognition that there is a God, and it ain't me. "Am I in the place of God?" Joseph asked. Vengeance belongs to God (Rom. 12:19), not to us. Further, as Joseph pointed out, the actions of his brother were evil toward him, but from God's perspective, they led to the salvation of Israel. We can never truly forgive others until we see things from a God-centered rather than self-centered point of view.
2) Forgiveness should comfort the offender. Forgiveness is not just about a sense of vindication for the offended - it is also about the restoration of the offender. Joseph did not want his brothers to be afraid, and to make sure of this he "comforted them and spoke kindly to them." When someone is broken enough to ask forgiveness, they are also fragile enough for the Devil to wound, to crush their spirit. That vulnerability is dangerous, and so that the Devil cannot exploit it for his purposes, the one who was offended must work to reassure the offender of God's grace. Paul told the Corinthians to forgive someone who had caused him pain so that he would not be "overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him...What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs" (2 Cor. 2:7-11).
3) Forgiveness should bear fruits worthy of forgiveness. Not only did Joseph speak kindly, he acted kindly, fulfilling his promise: "I will provide for you and your little ones." True forgiveness seeks to treat the offender as if the offense had never taken place, and indeed to treat them even better than before the offense occurred. This is how God forgives us.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:4-7)God forgave us "so that...he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us"! He is the ultimate "show off!" And what He desires to show off is just how giving and kind He is, to people who in no way deserve reprieve, much less riches.