“Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” These are the words that Joseph spoke to his brothers as the Bible’s grand opening act of Genesis is coming to a close.
The brother’s had reason to fear. Even though it had been decades, their sin against Joseph was seemingly unforgivable. They had been consumed with envy. They conspired. They contemplated murder. They threw him in a pit. They sold him to human traffickers. Finally, they covered up their wrongdoing by lying to their father.
It all happened a very long time ago, and it seemed that Joseph had forgiven but the brothers had new reason to worry, their father Jacob had died. Would Joseph now take this opportunity to settle the score with his brothers? Joseph reassured his brothers, ‘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…’
This response from Joseph holds a key insight. Unforgiveness is in fact putting ourselves in the place of God. In this sense, Unforgiveness is a breach of the first commandment. We place ourselves in judgement over someone.
Jesus warned against this as well in his parable. After having been forgiven an astronomical sum, the servant fails to forgive the much smaller amount owed to him. Even as the master has forgiven him he placed himself in the master’s seat.
Also, the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that our forgiveness from God ought to flow toward our forgiveness of one another. Easier said than done. However, we may get a step closer by focusing on actions instead of feelings. It’s helpful also to remember the great sum forgiven us through Jesus’ death and resurrection.