Holding onto hostility is tempting, perhaps even in vogue. But good comes to those who promote peace. In one Old Testament story, the Lord used Joseph’s situation to preserve the nation of Israel for the Messiah’s future coming. Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers can also inspire us to work for the good of everyone—God blesses us so we can bless others. And that works best when tensions have been resolved.
It’s about 13 years since Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery and implied to their father that he was dead. Joseph in time rose to great power in Egypt. His brothers, who’ve come to buy grain during a famine, don’t recognize their now influential sibling.
Joseph’s brothers have hurt him badly, but even when recognized, they do not ask for forgiveness.
Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers and invites them to “come closer” (Gen. 45:4). He even uses the Hebrew entreaty na, a stronger word than please, such as “I beg you.” This statement is in stark contrast to the last time Joseph approached his brothers, when they ripped off his clothing and threw him in a pit (Gen. 37:23-24). How would you describe the state of Joseph’s heart toward his brothers now? What would it look like to invite someone who’s hurt you to “come closer”?
To the world, Joseph would be justified in denouncing his brothers—but he doesn’t. Instead, he rejoices in God’s plan to save them all (Gen. 45:5-8). Though our misfortunes may not be part of such an important plan, we know that God uses each one for our good (Rom. 8:28). What does this indicate about the relationship between trusting Him and turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39)?
Jesus likens peacemakers to “sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). Elsewhere, that description refers to those who “love [their] enemies” (Matt. 5:44-45). Peacemaker, then, applies to not only one who mediates between others but also a person who relinquishes personal hostility, as Joseph did. Since “maker” implies action, can you describe something you’ve done recently, or could do, as a child of God fostering peace?
CONTINUING THE STORY
The peace between Joseph and his brothers brings a dramatic change: Joseph offers his siblings and father a home in Egypt with him, along with provisions to help them survive years of famine.
Is there something you could do for someone but have been putting off because of unresolved conflict?
Is there something you could do for someone but have been putting off because of unresolved conflict? How can you pave the way to shared blessing for everyone?
After Joseph’s explanation and expressions of forgiveness, the whole group cries, embraces, and talks together (Gen. 45:15). When tension between people ends, the relief felt is often powerful and filled with joy (though later, in Genesis 45:24, Joseph did have to remind his brother to “not quarrel”). Have you ever experienced this kind of change in a group dynamic or a relationship that had been troubled? Were you able to maintain that change, or did it require renewed peacemaking?
Peace heals wounds and restores us.
Genesis 45:25 refers to Joseph’s father as “Jacob.” But when Jacob is convinced that Joseph is alive and they will be reunited, Genesis 45:27 says his spirit revived—the same word used in 1 Chronicles 11:8 for the rebuilding of a ruined city. Jacob is then referred to as “Israel,” the special name he received from God years earlier (Gen. 32:28). The effort to make peace can have deeply felt and beautiful consequences for the suffering of others.
Consider how this study applies to your life.
Bringing peace in a room, let alone the heart of an enemy, is a sacred calling and one of the joys of being a Christian. And while it often means rolling up our sleeves and getting involved, we should never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers. While He can’t be seen, He can certainly be felt. This presence is a force to be reckoned with and may invoke powerful reactions without our saying a word—whether the reaction is one of fear or love depends on the heart of the person encountering Him.
Bringing peace in a room, let alone the heart of an enemy, is a sacred calling and one of the joys of being a Christian.
Believers are “a fragrance of Christ”—the aroma of either death or life (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Have you sensed this effect of your presence on others? If so, were you surprised how little it seemed to do with you personally?
What do you think Jesus meant by “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34)? Can peacemaking be consistent with the division often brought by the gospel? How?
Perhaps you’ve known situations where you couldn’t bring peace—say, with people who refused to reconcile or forgive. Scripture says we’re not to participate in the trading of offenses but promises we’ll be blessed for blessing others (1 Peter 3:9). What can you do today to bless someone who’s unwilling to reconcile?
It’s our privilege, through the Holy Spirit, to bring peace wherever it will be received. Even when some say no to Jesus, it’s still possible to maintain a loving stance by remembering to keep the sword in the gospel and not in our hearts.
Illustration by Adam Cruft