Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” Genesis 42:7
How painful would that moment be? Joseph has been far from home since he was a young boy. He’s missed his family but was also betrayed by most of them. Now, out of nowhere, the brothers who sold him into slavery are standing in front of him. I would imagine that part of him wanted to run and embrace them. They were a connection to home. Ah, but there was another part of him ~ the spiritual part that God had tutored. He was more God’s son than Jacob’s son. Time had broadened his perspective and he was able to find restraint; to inflict a wound that would lead to reconciliation.
Have you ever had to wound someone for their own good? If you’ve been a parent, the answer is automatically yes. But how about a sibling, a friend, or someone you’re mentoring? Inflicting a saving wound out of love is difficult, especially when the other person has hurt you. How do you wound them without having a personal agenda to take vengeance? Only time with God, a long time, will prepare any of us to deal with them for their spiritual good, not our need for justice.
I can imagine that Joseph was conflicted. He wanted to hurt them. He wanted to hug them. He wanted to make them pay. He wanted a family again. But he knew there could be no reconciliation without true remorse. A quick tearful reunion would not require them to search their own hearts. Only severe testing would unearth true feelings. Joseph was willing to inflict it and delay his own gratification. He set aside embraces for more estrangement.
Righteousness is often the dividing line in relationships. It fractures as one chooses Jesus and the other chooses his own passions. There can be no reconciliation without both parties being on the same page. If I love peace more than I love truth, I will rush in to make things okay when it’s entirely premature. Inflicting a wound by speaking the truth will delay any chance for intimacy but it will also give a wayward soul time to reflect and deal with his own heart.
To be a Joseph kind of leader takes courage – the kind of courage born of adversity that cast us on the breast of God for survival. The wisdom learned there is far more precious than the cheap embraces of those who aren’t ready to pledge true fidelity.
This is graduate school in biblical application. How am I doing, Lord? Only You can show me. Amen