There is Nothing Natural About Reconciliation

October 27, 2009

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I am pretty sure there is nothing at all natural about confession and forgiveness.  I think that, among the Spiritual ramifications of the fall of man, there is this part of the human condition which makes saying “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” difficult words for us to form.  It feels almost counter intuitive.  It doesn’t come naturally to anyone.

So, I’m reading the story of Joseph and his brothers and how they sold him into slavery and then told his father he had been killed.  He eventually got resold into the house of Pharaoh and later would rise to become second in command for all of Egypt (o.k., I skipped some of the story).  It is now many years later when he sees his brothers for the first time.  An ironic twist in the story is that they do not recognize him.  He sends them back home without disclosing his true identity and keeps one of them in prison while he awaits their return.  We don’t know how long they’re gone, but it is at least “seasons”, all the while he is keeping one of his brothers in prison.  Eventually, after they return to him, he discloses his true identity and he forgives them.  It is an awesome moment in the scriptures, one of my favorite stories.

Joseph is such a lovable and nearly perfect character, one might easily miss the fact that it took him a pretty long time to choose forgiveness.  He kept one poor brother in his prison the entire time he pondered his options.  It was not a choice that came naturally for him.  He had to draw upon something else to come to that conclusion.  What was it?

To answer that question (at least in part) we have to go way, way back in the Bible, all the way to the story about his father, Jacob and his uncle, Esau.  These two brothers had also parted ways, and it was a serious parting…one in which Esau promised to kill his brother Jacob if he saw him again.  After a very long time apart–more than 20 years–Jacob goes back to his brother Esau, hoping for reconciliation.  Jacob has his entire (very large) family in tow with him.  At the point of meeting between Jacob and Esau, the scripture goes to some lengths to talk about Jacob’s wives and children who were all present, but it only mentions one of the children by name. Guess which one? Bingo.  It’s Joseph.

So here is the important question this raises for us as leaders in the church (or as parents).  How important is it that our church members (and our children) actually get to witness confession and forgiveness when we mess up?  How might that experience influence them later in their own life when they are called upon to make a choice about forgiveness?  Think about it…they will either do what comes naturally, or they will remember what you taught them and do what they saw you do.

Lead well, my brothers and sisters.  Lead well.

© Blake Coffee

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