What draws a person to a saving knowledge of Christ? Is it the sudden awareness of the ugliness of one's sin? For many years that was the case. Today we have redefined ugly and it has become a good thing. Several years ago someone held a collegiate "National Ugly Competition." The University of Alsaka at Fairbanks was judged to have
the ugliest girls. I am sure those in Alaska would debate that issue. But suddenly ugliness was not considered negative. Perhaps that is why the violence on television is so commonplace and no one seems to care. Is it a persuasive witness that draws a person to Christ? I once heard Dr. James Kennedy say that very few people come to Christ without someone being a persuasive witness. I think he is right. But is that what draws their attention to Christ in the first place. I doubt it. John R. W. Stott surveyed his congregation and found that most of them came to Christ by realizing the love of Christ as displayed through the Gospel.
I have noticed in my Christian journey that most people are freightened by religious law. They are offended by self-righteousness. Hypocriscy closes doors. Judgement alienates people. One element that seems to cross all the barriers is a demonstrated love that comes from God.
The Scripture text in Genesis 43:15-34 is a beautiful portrayal of Godly love being exhibited. That love was exhibited by Joseph as he dealt with his past. Joseph's brothers were deeply moved as they saw an awesome exibition of Godly love. Joseph’s life was a demonstration of a love that dealt with the past.
Of all the attitudes exhibited in Genesis I can think of no issue that so ruins an attitude, a witness, a church, a family, an individual more than a refusal to forgive. Paul described the correct attitude in Philippians 3:12-15. Today we will answer some questions about Joseph's attitude.
HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT FOR JOSEPH TO FORGIVE?
Take some time to review Joseph’s life. He was the favored son who need not work and wore the coat that flowed from his wrists to his ankles. It was the coat of the elite. He was left in a cistern for dead by his own brothers. From there he was sold into slavery. Can you imagine the distress and emotional anguish he must have felt? He rose to power and prestege in Potiphar’s house. He refused the bed of Potiphar’s wife. He then found himself in prison for a rape he never committed. Forgotten by his friend, the cupbearer, upon the cupbearer’s release from prison Joseph remained imprisoned for two more years. Finally he was free and rose to power in the king’s palace. He led the country through years of wealth and years of famine. In the midst of famine his brothers came to him for food. Joseph recognized his brothers, but they do not recognize him. How difficult was it for Joseph to forget the past? I would suggest that it was very difficult. It was nearly impossible.
Joseph’s message is a contemporary one. It is difficult for all of us to forget the past. Sometimes it is nearly impossible. Some scars hurt so badly that we will never forget. There is no indication in this passage that Joseph forgot. He forgave, but he never forgot. That American proverb may not be a good one, “forgive and forget.” Forgive, yes; but completely forget, probably not. Love, yes; but completely forgetting may not be healthy.
HOW DID JOSEPH HANDLE HIS PAST THAT WOULD NOT DISSAPPEAR?
Two ideas surface from Genesis 43:15-25.
1. Joseph faced the past with the help of another person. His steward was the one who first confronted the brothers. This was a wise decision. Joseph knew from past history that the emotion of the past easily overtook him (Gen. 42:24). All of us need help with accountability. These brothers of Joseph worked hard to prove they were honest and upright men. Verse 23 is an interesting verse. The account has clearly been settled. When we forgive, that forgiveness comes directly from God. The steward referred to the God of Joseph’s brothers who was likewise Joseph’s God. It almost sounded like the God of the Joseph’s brothers and the God of Joseph was the God of the steward. Obviously Joseph’s life and attitude of love made a difference in the steward’s life.
2. Joseph faced the past with the power of God. He asked his brothers about their welfare. Literally Joseph asked the brothers about their peace. Were they at peace with God and themselves? Consider Genesis 43:26-29. When Joseph met his brother Benjamin he spoke the grace of God to him. The only way to handle a past that will not dissappear is with the grace of God. Notice in verse 30 that Joseph made no effort to handle a past that would not dissappear without deep, moving emotion. There is little value in facing a past without tears. This man’s man wept uncontrolably. He was then able to restore a relationship.