Summary: By following the example of Joseph we can learn how to restore rifts in our relationships.
THE DO’S & DON’TS OF RESTORING RELATIONSHIPS
August 4, 2002
If you think your family has problems, consider the marriage mayhem created when 76-year-old Bill Baker of London recently wed Edna Harvey. She happened to be his granddaughter’s husband’s mother. That’s where the confusion began, according to Baker’s granddaughter, Lynn. She said, “My mother-in-law is now my step-grandmother. My grandfather is now my step-father-in-law. My mom is my sister-in-law and by brother is my nephew. But even crazier is that I’m now married to my uncle and my own children are my cousins.” From this experience, Lynn should gain profound insight into the theory of relativity. (Campus Life, March, 1981, p. 31)
Unfortunately most stories of messed up relationships aren’t so funny. It is no laughing matter that half of all marriages in the church are ending in divorce. However, this message is not just about marriage relationships, but all relationships. We are going to take a look into an episode in the life of Joseph in order to learn the do’s and don’ts of restoring relationships. Learning and applying relational skills is vitally important because God made us to live in relationship with others. When Adam was alone in the garden God saw that it was not good for him to be alone. We can only live in relationships. We need each other.
A rather crude and cruel experiment was carried out by Emperor Frederick, who ruled the Roman Empire in the thirteenth century. He wanted to know what man’s original language was: Hebrew, Greek, or Latin? He decided to isolate a few infants from the sound of the human voice. He reasoned that they would eventually speak the natural tongue of man. Wet nurses who were sworn to absolute silence were obtained, and though it was difficult for them, they abided by the rule. The infants never heard a word -- not a sound from a human voice. Within several months they were all dead. (Joe E. Trull)
Studies have also shown that single men are jailed more often, earn less, have more illnesses and die at a younger age than married men. Married men with cancer live 20% longer than single men with the same cancer. Women, who often have more close friendships than men, survive longer with the same cancers. Married or not, relationships keep us alive. (Dr. Bernie Siegel, Homemade, May, 1989)
Clearly healthy relationships are vital to our very lives. So let’s look together at an encounter between Joseph and his brothers so we can learn the biblical principals for restoring relationships. Please follow along in your Bibles as I read Genesis 45:1-15 . . .
1. DON’T MAKE A PUBLIC SPECTACLE OF THE OTHER PERSON. (v. 1)
Years before Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery in order to get rid of him. He lived as a slave in Egypt for years and was then thrown in prison on trumped up charges. After years of life in prison he was set free because he was able, with God’s help, to interpret a disturbing dream that Pharaoh had. He was placed in charge of all Egypt and was second only to Pharaoh himself. In his new position Joseph prepared Egypt for the famine prophesied of in the dream. When the famine came Joseph’s brothers were forced to go to Egypt in search of food. Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn’t recognize him and so he devised a little test to see if they would still sell out one of their brothers. They passed. When Joseph decided to reveal his true identity and confront his brothers he first cleared the room so that it could be done in private.
There was a great deal of wisdom in that move. If someone has wronged you in some way the last thing that you should do is broadcast that everywhere. Let me say right up front that there are some serious exceptions to that rule. For instance, in the case of rape or other violent abuse the appropriate authorities need to be notified for your own well being and for the safety of others. However, in most situations you need to confront the individual or individuals in private. If you confront them publicly or go around telling people what they did you will only make matters worse. The Bible says, “If you argue your case with a neighbor, do not betray another man’s confidence, or he who hears it may shame you and you will never lose your bad reputation” (Proverbs 25:11). It has been said that “Gossip is the most deadly microbe. It has neither legs nor wings. It is composed entirely of tales, and most of them have stings.” (Morris Mandel in Bits & Pieces, June, 1990, p. 22) So the next time you are tempted to talk about someone T.H.I.N.K. before you speak.