True Forgiveness Requires Repentance
Forgiveness without repentance could result in an “eating with the devil” relationship, in which one would use a proverbial long spoon in readiness to run away at any appearance of provocation. God can see through your heart to know if you have repented. However, a fellow human being may need a physical manifestation of your repentance to truly forgive.
Joseph Seeks True Forgiveness
Joseph sought and found true forgiveness for his senior brothers. Recall that his brothers met him in Egypt approximately 20 years after they sold him to slavery. He was a powerful man, the administrative head of all Egypt. His brothers did not recognize him. He recognized them but did not reveal himself. Instead, he subjected them to several tests to verify their repentance.
The last test resulted in a judgement by Joseph that Benjamin be detained in Egypt as a slave while the rest return home to Canaan. To avoid going home without Benjamin, all the brothers offered to be enslaved in Egypt along with him. However, Joseph rejected their offer and insisted that only Benjamin (who was found with the missing silver cup) would be enslaved.
Judah Offers Himself for Benjamin
At this, Judah stepped forward and offered to switch places with Benjamin: Please let the boy go home, he pleaded, while I remain in Egypt as my master’s slave. Joseph wept at the realization that his brothers now were “brother’s keepers,” in contrast to the people that nearly killed him 20 years earlier. Having verified his brothers’ repentance, Joseph offered them true and complete forgiveness.