Summary: End the Family Feud 1) Forgive what has been done 2) Foresee what God has planned
“An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel” (Proverbs 18:19 NIV UK Version). That was King Solomon’s way of saying that family feuds are among the most painful things in life. That’s true isn’t it? After all, if you get into it with your friends, you can take comfort that at least you don’t have to live with them. If you don’t like the way co-workers treat you, you can always find a different job. But if you can’t get along with your family, life will be a drag because you can’t just change families.
If disagreements, harsh words, and even physical abuse have torn apart your family, the story of Joseph offers hope. Through Joseph’s actions God teaches us how to end family feuds. He says we do this by forgiving what has been done, and by foreseeing what God has planned.
Joseph was one of twelve sons of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. As the first-born of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel, Joseph was Daddy’s favorite son. The other boys may have been able to put up with their father’s favoritism but they couldn’t deal with their brother’s habit of bragging. Joseph claimed to have received dreams in which his brothers and parents bowed down to him. The dreams were real, but so was the hatred Joseph’s brothers felt for him. One day when Joseph’s brothers were taking care of their father’s sheep, they spotted Joseph coming towards them. As they grumbled about him, their jealousy turned to murderous rage and before they knew it, they had hatched a plan to kill Joseph. Thankfully two brothers, Reuben and Judah, intervened. They persuaded their brothers to sell Joseph into slavery instead. And so Joseph was sent off to Egypt while father Jacob was led to believe that his favorite son had been killed by a wild animal.
In Egypt, Joseph faithfully served the captain of the palace guard until he was falsely accused of sexual harassment. He was imprisoned and there he languished for over two years before Pharaoh turned to Joseph for help in interpreting his dreams. With God’s help, Joseph explained the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams and was elevated to second in command – a position he used to oversee Egypt’s food distribution.
It was under these circumstances that Joseph came face to face with his brothers once again. Famine had forced Joseph’s brothers to come to Egypt for food. When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them immediately but they did not recognize Joseph. When Joseph did reveal his true identity, how do you think his brothers felt? Do you think they were overjoyed to see him? Not at first. At first they were scared, for the brother they had hated and treated poorly now had the resource of the Egyptian army to take revenge. Is that what Joseph had in mind for his brothers? No. Already at their first reunion Joseph put an end to the family feud when he forgave his brothers for what they had done. Joseph didn’t just tell them they were forgiven he showed it by caring for his brothers and their families by giving them food and places to live.
Still his brothers weren’t convinced. They thought that this was all part of Joseph’s plan to take revenge on them when they least expected it. And so when their father died years later, the brothers thought for sure the time had come for Joseph to exact his revenge. Upon learning that his brothers still doubted his forgiveness, Joseph wept and then he said to them: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19b) Joseph had no plans for revenge because he knew that only God had the right to do that. Therefore when we take revenge, even if that’s giving another the cold shoulder, we are playing God.
Friends, if you want to “play God,” do it by forgiving. When we forgive we do so at God’s command and serve as God’s voice of love (John 20:23). Forgive and end the feuds in your family. Forgive now. Don’t wait for those who have hurt you to show that they are sorry for what they have done. Look at Joseph. He forgave his brothers before they even recognized him. Extend forgiveness with a lifetime guarantee as Joseph did. Don’t say to one another: “I forgive you but you better never do that again.”
The kind of forgiveness Joseph extended is forgiveness God himself has shown us. God forgave us before we even asked for forgiveness. He forgave us by punishing his Son for our sins over two thousand years ago. You see it wasn’t just the Jewish leaders’ jealousy of Jesus and Pilate’s cowardliness that pinned our Savior to that cross. It was the weight of our desire for revenge against one another, and our refusal to let go of grudges that pushed the nails through his hands. God not only forgave us for these and all sins before we asked, he forgives us forever. God’s forgiveness comes with a lifetime, no, a forever-time guarantee because the one who died for our sins is more than human, he is God’s Son from eternity so everything he accomplished for us extends into eternity. Since our great debt of sin has been cancelled forever, Jesus calls us to do the same for one another (Matthew 18:21-35).