Summary: If we want real reconciliation and healing in our broken relationships, then we must confess our own sins to one another; we must forgive those who sinned against us; but none of that is possible until we truly believe 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 an apple pie. (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 no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. (NIV)
They’re sure he’s going to get revenge.
Genesis 45:4-10 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. (NIV)