Biblical forgiveness deals directly and specifically with personal injuries, no matter how deep they are or how far they may be in our past. When working through past wrongs, it’s important to label those sins accurately. In so doing, we identify and confess the true problem. In Scripture the term “confess” means “to agree” on the issue. When we accurately confess sin, we agree with God on the true nature of the problem between us and others.
Jacob gave his sons very wise advice; he told them exactly what to say: “Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.” The term “great wrong” can also be translated as “evil.” In the moment of confession we may tend to downplay our sins or the sins of others. The behavior of Joseph’s brothers toward him was nothing less than evil. Joseph knew firsthand the depth of their depravity. That was the burden his brothers were carrying all those years, the burden that made them afraid of Joseph—and rightly so! They were guilty of evil against the man who was now their judge. Yet, when they confessed their evil, did Joseph respond by repaying them with more evil? No! Joseph wept! He saw that God’s purposes were also at work through his brothers’ evil behaviors. Thus he was able to forgive and comfort his brothers, and be restored to a right relationship with them.
First John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” Look at the beauty of forgiveness! Forgiveness can reach back to the deepest wrongs from many years past, even releasing people from burdens they have carried since childhood.