Use one or both of these questions to introduce the lesson:
1. What offenses against you do you find easy to forgive? What offenses do you find difficult to forgive, or even unforgiveable?
2. In the New Testament, two different Greek words are translated forgivein English. One literally means “to write off or dismiss” and the other means “to extend grace to.” Which do you think applies to the offense and which to the offender? What difference does it make?
Read Genesis 45:1-8.
1. In his book, This Far by Faith, political commentator Juan Williams argued that the belief in the providence of God allowed the American Civil Rights movement to focus on nonviolence rather than open revolt. What evidence do you see that a similar conviction motivated Joseph to forgive rather than seek vengeance on his brothers?
2. What was another name given to Joseph’s father Jacob (Genesis 32:28)? When Joseph’s policies in Egypt saved Jacob’s family, what impact did that have on Bible history? When would the Bible story have ended if Joseph had executed his brothers (which he had the power to do) rather than forgive them?
Read Genesis 45:9-15.
3. Joseph sent his brothers back, urging them to tell a lot of good news to Jacob. List elements of that good news.
4. Nevertheless, there was bad news to tell as well. Although the text does not spell it out, Joseph’s brothers would have had to answer Jacob’s embarrassing question, “How did Joseph end up in Egypt?” What part does confession of wrongdoing play in healing relationships?
Read Genesis 50:15-21.
5. Skim through Genesis 48, 49, noting the actions of Jacob between the time of his arrival in Egypt and his death. What part do you surmise that he had in holding his family together during that time? Why was his death a legitimate reason for Joseph’s brothers to fear for their safety?
6. Compare Joseph’s words in Genesis 50:19-21 to Paul’s command in Romans 12:17-21. What parallels do you see in these passages?
7. Forgiveness is abandoning the idea of taking vengeance on someone who wrongs us. Reconciliation is attempting to restore a relationship between ourselves and a wrongdoer. How can we know which is appropriate?