Summary: If you want real reconciliation and healing in your relationships, confess your own sins and forgive those who sinned against you; believing that God is in control.
Stewart Ruch, a pastor in Wheaton, Illinois, talks about the “huge gap” between the ideal and the real in our everyday lives, using a family outing as an example. You see, every fall his family likes to go apple picking.
Now, for the Ruch family, the ideal day for apple picking is when the leaves are golden and rusty, the sky is beautiful, and it's 75 degrees. They all pile into the van and start singing and laughing as they merrily drive to the orchard. They arrive early in the morning with plenty of time to enjoy the orchard. Surprisingly, the folks at the apple orchard say, “Today apples are free for families.” So the kids guzzle apple cider and stuff themselves with apple donuts – and they don't even get a sugar high! Finally, after a perfect day at the orchard, they drive home as the children keep saying, “Wow, thanks, Mom and Dad!”
But, Pastor Ruch says, the real day often looks like this. It's a disaster from the start. They leave at least two hours late. The apple orchard closes at 5 P.M., they’re leaving at 3 P.M., and it takes an hour-and-half to get there, but dad bark at everyone, “We're going, so get in the car!” They missed lunch because they were scrambling to get everything done. With blood sugar levels plummeting, mom and dad start arguing. He thinks it's her fault that they're leaving late; she says it's his fault. They keep arguing until the kids interrupt because now they're arguing with each other. Dad turns around and snaps at the kids, “Knock it off! I'm arguing with your mom.”
When they pull into the apple orchard, they only have thirty minutes before closing time. So dad tells the kids, “Hurry up, so you can have some fun.” At that time of the day all the good apples are gone, and nothing is free. The entrance fee is outrageous, so they all pile back into the van and it is already dark. On the way home, they finally get their apples: they stop at McDonald's for their fried apple pies. (Stewart Ruch, Shaping the World of Each Child, www.PreachingToday.com)
Unfortunately, that’s real life with real people in real families. We’re all real sinners, so there are going to be times when there are real damages to our relationships. And yet, even then, real reconciliation is possible. We can still live in real peace with each other despite the confines of our very real lives.
That’s what happened to Joseph and his brothers. They had sold him into slavery, because they were jealous of the special attention their father paid to him. So Joseph, at the age of 17, starts off as a slave in Egypt. Then he is thrown into prison. But through a series of divine interventions, after 13 years, Joseph ends up as a powerful ruler in Egypt, 2nd only to Pharaoh himself.
22 years after selling him into slavery, Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to buy food for their families who are starving. It’s the second time they have come, because a severe drought has ravaged their homeland for two years. Thus they find themselves dealing with a powerful, Egyptian ruler that they don’t know is Joseph himself. Though he feeds them from his own table and provides generously for them, he accuses them of being spies and thieves. On their first trip, he imprisoned one of them, and this time he threatens to keep another one of them as his slave.
Judah pleads for his brother’s freedom, offering himself as a slave instead, and it’s more than Joseph can bear. He breaks down in tears and they are all reunited in one of the most moving stories of reconciliation I have ever read.
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 45, Genesis 45, where we see how Joseph and his brothers were reconciled and how we might find reconciliation in any of our broken or damaged relationships.
Genesis 45:1-3 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. (ESV)
They’re sure he’s going to get revenge.
Genesis 45:4-10 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. (ESV)