Joseph’s Brothers, God’s Kingdom and Forgiveness

Two of the lectionary readings for this weekend are explicitly about forgiveness. Genesis 45:3-28 tells the story of Joseph’s forgiveness extended toward those brothers that sold him into slavery. It seems that this kind of forgiveness was possible only because Joseph had a vision of God redeeming the pain, suffering and rejection he had experienced.

Luke 6:27-38 is one of the Gospel passages which speaks about love of enemies, forgiveness and judgment. (Jesus was really good at packing all of the tough issues into one small package.) From this passage it appears that forgiveness is part of God’s new order, the Kingdom of God as we often call it. Does this mean that forgiveness requires either the presence or at least the anticipation of God’s Kingdom?

Miroslav Volf shares this idea:

Forgiveness doesn’t stand alone, as a punctual act or even as an isolated practice. That would be too passive an understand of what forgivness is all about. Rather, it is embedded in a  a way of life that is committed to overcoming evil by doing good. That’s how Luther interpreted “forgetting” in the phrase “forgive and forget”. Not to count the offenders guilty and not to press charges against them is important but insufficient. Luther insisted that you should “load” the enemy “with kindess so that, overcome with good [Rom. 12:21], he will be kindled with love for you”. – from Free of Charge, pg. 189.

Volf makes the point throughout his book that when we give or forgive we are borrowing upon the forgiveness and generosity of God. Our acts of forgiveness are “echos” of the forgiveness of God himself.

What is the dynamic between forgiveness, the Kingdom and the church? How do they relate and rely up on the other?


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