Home >> Previous Sermons >> Sept 9, 2012

Family, Betrayel, and Opportunity

Genesis VI: The Modern Ancient History Genesis 45:1-15

From the YOUR FAMILY IS MORE DISFUNTIONAL THAN MY FAMILY DEPARTMENT: Tianna Madison won gold on the 4x400 meter relay team for the United States in London last month. That’s newsworthy. But she’s making different news now. Her mother and father sued her and her husband for libel, slander, and defamation of character. They charge that the couple spread false stories to media outlets portraying them as bullies and mismanaging Tianna’s finances. The parents are so put out they are asking $25,000 a piece in damages. While they were together and happy at the going away to London party, her mom had mentioned publicly that they had spent $100k on the road to the Olympics and were hoping to get something back.

Family is never better than when we sense unconditional love and support. But when you feel like you’ve been betrayed, when you sense a traitor, family can go real bad real quick. For some of us this morning, the story makers and story tellers we call family are complicated memories. We might question what they did and how they did it, and we might not like what we remember. What do we do with that story?

That’s the quandary of Joseph in Genesis 42-44. These two chapters give the conclusion of a painful story of betrayal, and he does not reach the right ending without some struggle. Let’s recount the story before we move to our passage for the day. To go all the way back, Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and passed off as dead to their father, Jacob. Years pass and Joseph suffers in Egypt until the great break that puts him second-in-command to Pharaoh. It is when the famine strikes that the brothers come to Egypt to buy food. Who should they meet but their clean-shaven and well-disguised brother? And this is where it gets painful. He runs them through a series of meetings where he requires a brother, Simeon, to be held as ransom until they bring the youngest son, Benjamin, to
Egypt. They pay for grain and later find their payment stashed in their grain as if stolen. When they return for more grain they take the youngest brother. But when they leave, this scene unfolds: Genesis 44:1-5. For whatever reasoning we might find in Joseph’s actions in the story, the brothers are paying dearly because of what Joseph knows. And if you know what no one else knows about family, you are certainly facing a prime opportunity.

Note the lower-case “o” in the word. It is an opportunity, but it is a lower choice. Make no mistake, there is power in being family: we know one another’s faults, frailties, and skeletons. To live that close to people is to see them without halos. More, it is to face the temptation to see weakness, enjoy weakness, expose weakness, and parlay that weakness into gain—whether it is simple teasing or insult or a little guilt for gas money. We all live close enough to someone to see the weakness.

That lower-case “o” of opportunity can take you to a lot of places you don’t need to go, like withholding forgiveness, telling family stories with a shade of sarcasm and cynicism, holding onto the stories of failure and not the stories of faithfulness, and holding onto losses as the excuses for our own failures. There is opportunity in hard family stories, but it is the low road. It is always available, but it is always the low road.

Then there is upper-case “O” of opportunity. And it unfolds in Genesis 45:1-15. (Read) Nothing Joseph says or does will make the story of his betrayal a good story. But there is an opportunity for something that can transcend the hard knocks of his life.

  • Keep alive what circumstances want to kill. Note verse 3, “I am Joseph,” and verse 4, “I am Joseph, the one you sold into slavery.” The brothers treated him as if he wasn’t family, and Joseph had every reason to separate himself from the betrayers. Here is an upper-case “O” opportunity. What they deemed dead, he will deem alive. Whatever behaviors and circumstances might have wiped out any interest in ingoing family relationship, Joseph cancels. “I am Joseph” is not only a statement of identity in himself but also a statement for his brothers. They are family. *Steve Thompson, visiting brother in Michigan. Whatever is required, do what must be done to keep family alive.
  • Explore the sovereignty of God. Note verses 5-8. These words cannot be said lightly. Is it obvious to Joseph? Sure. But this rescue of his family came at a steep price and through the sin of his brothers. It seems to me that it is not up to someone else to decide for you what God’s sovereign hand has done in your life through family hardship. We cannot casually speak of sinful behaviors done against people and expect these people to see the light of God’s hand. God’s hand is not always obvious. And God’s ability to bring good through all things (rom. 8:28) does not mean that what we faced was good or will ever be good. But we need to trust God’s navigation in this life. Just as we would be quick to say that God used the deeds of faithful people to shape us, God can also use the deeds of unfaithful people to shape you. Where you’ve been has had a purpose. Who you’ve been around is important. *Sharpening a knife requires that the blade be reduced by the slightest bit. Yes, we lose, but we gain. Maybe you don’t see the purpose yet, but it might be getting closer every day. This is a grand opportunity.
  • Steps of forgiveness. Note verses 14-15. We’re to see that Joseph’s love is true love. In Genesis 50:18-21, Joseph shows true forgiveness. Now it is much easier to forgive when people ask for forgiveness, but it is not required. Forgiveness is our opportunity to respond through Christ to people who have hurt us Colossians 3:13 says to “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” This is not only a command. It is also an opportunity to explore the forgiveness you received in Christ. That idea is worth a long walk. Every act of God’s forgiveness changes us, and moves us closer to Christ. But every act of forgiving others moves us closer to Christ as well. And sometimes it moves others closer to Christ.

Family is an opportunity. Or Opportunity. It is your choice.




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