Saturday, January 6, 2007

Stay with the Jerk?

"Better to have loved and lost than stay living with the jerk!!"

Better to have loved and lost than to have stayed with the jerk!

So said the bumper sticker.

Of course the original saying comes from Tennyson:

"'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

But the "update" got me thinking, "is there someone specific the driver was referring to? Is this their way of sticking it to their ex?"

There's an interesting story about a brother that had a chance to stick it to his siblings. He had every reason to. They had made fun of him. They had stolen one of his most precious items, given to him by their father. The other brothers had kicked "the favorite son" out of the family.

If anyone had a right to stick it to someone, it was this 1 brother, Joseph, the favorite. If anyone should have been glad to get the jerks out of their life, it should have been him.

And here was his chance. There was a famine back home. Times were bad.

So the brothers had all traveled a great distance to the place where there was plenty of food. When they arrived, they went to see "The Man", the authority who had the power to grant food or deny food; the ability to extend life or to take it from their entire family.

The Man...was Joseph.

The scene was set perfectly. The brothers didn't even know it was him. The years had made him unrecognizable to them. What would he do? How would he get back at them? After seeing all the injustice, you're just about giddy for him to pounce on them.

But Joseph didn't do that. He played it cool. He didn't tell them who he was. Not at first.

But he didn't make it easy on them either. He accuses the brothers of being spies. He sends 8 of the 9 half-brothers that are there home to bring back the 1 full brother to "prove their story", (when in reality he probably just wants to see his brother Benjamin with his own eyes). And he keeps 1 of the brothers as ransom to make sure they return.

At the climactic scene in the whole story, (you REALLY need to read the whole account in Genesis chapters 36, 39-45 because time doesn't allow me to tell you about great scenes like the brothers bowing low, begging for mercy and food to the one they've wronged, and they don't even know it!!) he is ready to reveal his true identity to them, and, you hope, STICK IT TO THEM. This is what he says:

"I am Joseph!!" Alright. Here it comes...

"Is my father still alive?" Well, that's natural. He wants to know his dad is doing. But get ready for payback!

"...Don't be angry at what you did to me for God did it. He sent me hear ahead of you to preserve your keep you and your families alive."

WHAT?! No retribution? No vengeance? No punishment for all the picking on him, kicking him out of the family and making him go through all this pain? (I mean, he didn't speak Egyptian very well! [A.L.W.])

And what's all this "God did it" stuff about anyway??

The Hebrews of the Old Testament had this irritating habit of seeing God behind nearly EVERYTHING. The sun comes out or the rain falls and God causes it. Children are born or a couple is infertile and God is working behind it. Nations rise or nations fall and it is directly linked to divine will.

Now, I'm not saying that everything you experience is directly caused by God. (Even Scripture would argue against that idea when it says "the rain falls on the just and the unjust"; some stuff JUST HAPPENS.)

But I AM saying that maybe there is something going on, Someone at work, behind the scenes, just past our normal ability to see and hear, and it might be worth our while to investigate further.

Joseph did. And what he saw told him that God was at work in the midst of all the injustice he had experienced, all the punishement he had unfairly taken, all the time of separation from his father, all the pain intentionally caused by is brothers. That in all of that, God had not forgotten him, and was actually USING it to benefit those around him.

Joseph saw something else too. He saw that forgiveness on his part would save his father and all of his father's sons. He saw that returning kindness to them would provide life and healing that vindictiveness could never give.

Now, I have to tell you, something within me wants that type of forgiveness when I mess up. Something in me cries out for people to be that gracious and wise when I drop the ball, step on it, and lose it. And I'm guesssing something within you feels the same way.

So what will you do? Will you be willing to love and lose? Or will you stick it to the jerk?

Grace & peace.

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