“Dad, I will give him 5 chances.”
So said my 11-year-old son to me when I told him that he needed to have more patience with his younger brother. It was a very magnanimous gesture.
This was after a little lecture from me regarding the passages in I John that dealt with loving your brother. I was really glad he listened and actually wanted to do something about it. He honestly felt that he was taking a stand on the higher ground. But still . . . he was setting a limit in his willingness to love and forgive. Not just a limit that he reached out of exasperation, but a pre-established limit, the worst kind.
Those two words in Genesis 50:17 tell me everything I need to know about true forgiveness. Jacob had died and Joseph’s brothers were now worried that any promise of forgiveness and protection would be eliminated, so they wrote a letter claiming (lying?) that their father had desired this covering of forgiveness to remain. When Joseph read this letter, he wept.
Why did he weep? I believe it was because it deeply pained him to think that his brothers felt the forgiveness was conditional, limited. When instead it was “to infinity and beyond.”
I will rest in that forgiveness from my Father, who doesn’t hold it over me like a guillotine, waiting to drop it on my head at the first sign of my unworthiness. It’s eternal. I will offer that same forgiveness to my brother – an extended hand that has no limits.