Monday, November 11, 2013

Families are the Best

StateLibQld 1 68979 Portrait of the Ferner family, 1905
Family can be the best...

At holding grudges: "Well! I still remember that Thanksgiving when you took off with your boyfriend instead of eating with us!"

At gossip: "I heard that your cousin Michael is out of a job again.  He is going to be the death of your Aunt Susan."

At despair: "I gave up years ago.  You're never going to change.  Why do I even try?"

At blame: "Mom, you're the reason I'm miserable. How was I supposed to learn how to have a happy marriage with you and Dad always yelling at each other?"

At envy: "Don't tell me how to feel!  With your house in the suburbs, dog and 2.5 kids, I don't want to hear it!"

Okay, maybe not the best.  But I bet yours isn't the worst either.  Just look at Joseph for example!   First his mother Rachel was bitterly envious.  She fought a lifelong cold war with her sister Leah with weapons fashioned from the people they loved (Genesis 29-30). Joseph's father, Jacob, whose very name means deceiver, honored him openly as the best-beloved child, setting up the envy and hatred of his brothers that was destined to change the course of his life. (Genesis 35:26, 37:3)

The best of his brothers were Reuben and Judah who decided for their father's sake that Joseph shouldn't DIE while the other eight plotted his death.  Reuben left him in a pit thinking he'd come back later and pick him up before he died of exposure, and Judah came up with the bright idea of selling him instead of committing murder!  These were the best of the lot.  The other eight just wanted the bragging little twerp to die (Genesis 37).

And yet God was working.  He brought Joseph through, despite slavery and a prison stay.  He showed Joseph his favor by using him as a tool to save not only the entire population of Egypt from famine but the children of Israel as well. Then he brought those same brothers back around.

For vengeance, right?  Don't we wonder, when the brothers came begging for grain, why Joseph didn't have them all summarily executed? Surely there's a family member or two you've quietly imagined the wrath of God barreling down upon. No?  Just me? 

No, God brought the brothers back to Joseph so that through his forgiveness, reconciliation, and grace Joseph could become their redeemer.  The lamb saving the wolves from starvation. (Psalms 105) 

It's in our families that we learn service.  It's also in our families that we face our greatest hurts and temptations.  The small and mundane annoyances- toothpaste on the sink, groceries forgotten, the last piece of pie gone from the fridge again, socks on the floor-cause us to explode. The colossal betrayals, the heinous acts, the unforgivable sins-the drugs and alcohol, the adultery, the pornography, the violence- cause our families to implode. Sometimes we are betrayed. Sometimes we are betrayer. 

But whichever side of the dais we stand on, we can find ourselves in Joseph's story.  We are either the brothers hanging our heads in horror, awaiting our punishment for hurting the people we love, or we are Joseph with all the power; will we forgive or will we damn? 

Joseph had received years of God's favor and attention and apparently he learned something important because he forgave.  Can we learn to...

Replace grudges with forgiveness?  Let go of that Thanksgiving dinner 5 years ago, and be grateful for this one.  

Replace gossip with an encouraging phone call to that out of work nephew.  

Replace despair with prayer and hope.  Suddenly we believe not in our loved ones power to change but in the power of the Spirit to change them if they will only submit!  

Replace blame with confession.  Every human being OWNS his own sin.  It does no good to blame the person we learned it from instead of confessing to the God who can redeem us from it.

Replace envy with love.  Love rejoices in the good of the loved one. It refuses to compare our state with theirs.  Real deep honest love would rather they be blessed than we.  

The holidays are coming.  Families are going to be together driving each other nuts.  Old hurts and old hopes are going to collide and tears will be shed.  I hope this year is different for you.  Leave us a comment and tell us how this year can be a Joseph year in your family. 
Helene
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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