Not In Kind But In Kindness

In this first parsha of the New Year, I want to talk about responding to difficult situations not in kind but in kindness. Our text Genesis 50:15-21. It reads:  When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said to one another,” If Joseph is holding a grudge against us, he will certainly repay us for all the suffering we caused him.” 16 So they sent this message to Joseph,” Before he died your father gave a command: 17 ‘Say this to Joseph: Please forgive your brothers’ transgression and their sin — the suffering they caused you.’ Therefore, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when their message came to him. 18 Then his brothers also came to him, bowed down before him, and said,” We are your slaves!” 19 But Joseph said to them,” Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result — the survival of many people. 21 Therefore don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

It’s funny, (not ha-ha funny), that guilt has a way of sticking around even after we are forgiven. And we see here that after their father’s death, Jacob’s sons were overcome with feelings of guilt and even paranoia. Would Joseph now retaliate for what his brothers had done to him? Their way of dealing with this fear was to plot a two-fold strategy to appease Joseph. They sent word to him that their father had left instructions before he died, requesting that he forgive them for what they had done. Then they followed up this seemingly contrived message by offering to be his slaves.

Joseph’s response to his fearful brothers reveals his attitude towards God and them (vv. 18-21; cf. 27:41). He humbled himself under God’s authority. He regarded God as sovereign over him and the One who had providentially guided all the events of his life. He knew that God’s purposes for him, his family, and all people were good (cf. chs. 1—2). He immediately acknowledged that he knew his brothers had” planned evil against” him, but he reassured them that “God planned it for good” to actually save their lives and the lives of many others (v. 20). This is why he behaved with tender compassion toward his brothers. This is why he responded not in kind but in kindness.

Humanly speaking, we just don’t have the stuff to understand this divine perspective. However, even when these trials don’t make sense logically and rationally— we can still experience an inner strength that is clearly supernatural, even though we may never comprehend the purpose in our suffering until we meet Messiah face to face.  Right here right now, through eyes of faith, we can be sure God can use our difficult circumstances to achieve His purposes in the world.  I think this is the greatest lesson we can learn from the life of Joseph.  And we know that we’ve learned that lesson when we respond to these hard situations not in kind but in kindness.

Today is the first day of the rest of our earthly ministry lives. I want to look at the balance of whatever amount of time God chooses to give me from that perspective. And from the season of life where I’m currently standing, I anticipate a providential convergence of spiritual need, acquired wisdom, and most importantly the provision of Divine grace to facilitate the accomplishing of God’s will. And that focus, that single-mindedness, is totally appropriate because the LORD has dealt with you and me not in kind but in kindness.

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