You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. Genesis 45:10
One day when I was maybe six or seven years old, my brother and I were fighting when he threw his pillow, hitting me in the face. It was one of those heavy feather pillows and so it sort-of hurt. In anger, I impulsively whipped that pillow back at him. He was older, smarter, and faster than me though, and so he ducked . . . as that pillow sailed right through, shattering our bedroom window. We were in trouble. My Dad later explained that he was going to take our allowance and make us work odd jobs until we paid for the replacement window. I was distraught. Some simple math told me it would take months to pay off my debt. That first week came and went though, and I still got my allowance. I suddenly realized that my dad wasn’t going to make us pay for the window. He’d forgiven us and in doing so, he had to pay the price for the broken window himself. That was a good feeling – to know that I’d been forgiven and that my debt had been paid.
I imagine Joseph’s brothers must have felt something similar in today’s passage. In the story, the brothers stood before Joseph who finally revealed his identity to them. How they must have quaked in fear upon realizing that the brother they’d once discarded now held their lives in his hands. Joseph didn’t seek retribution though. He’d followed God’s will for his life, letting go of resentment, choosing forgiveness. Instead of using his power to hurt his brothers, he used his wealth and authority to bless them, providing money, security, and land. The brothers must have experienced tremendous relief as they realized Joseph had pardoned them. The debt they owed had been forgiven. This did cost Joseph something though, as he had to surrender the right to hang on to the debt.
Freedom from our past failures is what God offers to each of us. Because we all sin, we’ve all offended God, separating ourselves from him. Our debt must be accounted for, but because God loves us, like my dad and like Joseph, God has taken debt upon himself, so we don’t have to pay it. Now, if we ask, we may experience forgiveness and a new life. If we desire, we can daily abandon the old life, finding the joy, peace, and absolution that comes only in being forgiven by God. If we desire, we can daily dwell in God’s love, mercy, and grace.