In the One Year Bible we have been reading about the life of Joseph. Given that his story begins in chapter 37 of Genesis and ends in chapter 50, it is one of the longer narratives in the Bible. The life of such a prominent man surely has lessons for us.
The greatest lesson for me is Joseph’s ability to avoid bitterness and unforgiveness by grasping God’s greater plan. His brothers sold him into slavery and lied to his father that he was dead. While in Egypt he was treated unjustly by the wife of his Master, falsely accused and imprisoned. Joseph had a number of reasons to be resentful about the events of his life over which he had no control.
Years later, after coming to power and being reunited with his brothers, he had every opportunity for revenge. While he did play a number of cat and mouse games, his love for his brothers was evident throughout. The Scriptures record a number of times when Joseph had to leave the room to weep, which is hardly the action of a man hardened by bitterness.
When his brothers realized that this powerful man was their brother Joseph, understandably they feared for their lives. But Joseph said, “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” He knew that if his brothers had not sold him into slavery in Egypt then he would not have risen to power and been able to save many, including his own family, from starvation. Joseph had learned to kiss his scars.
I connect to this story. Many years ago my best friend betrayed and sinned against me, which resulted in a number of dominos falling and negatively impacting my life in a profound way. Of course I was not without my own sin and guilt, but that does not change the fact that, like Joseph’s brothers, he did evil against me. When I was in the midst of the fallout and pain I could not for the life of me understand why God would allow such a thing to happen. As I was drowning in self-pity a true friend said to me, “He did you a favor” but I could not see it at the time. He was right.
As years went by I was able to see the hand of God in it all. If it were not for my friend’s actions I would have not moved to Chattanooga. If I had not moved to Chattanooga I would have never met Beth, whose very smile heals my soul. If I had not attended St. Paul’s in Chattanooga, my Rector would not have directed me into the priesthood. If I had not entered the priesthood, then I would have never had the privilege of knowing and serving the people of St. Paul’s and All Saints’ and St. Patrick’s and Church of the Redeemer and St. Stephens and on and on. God meant it for good.
Joseph understood and I am learning that evil does not have the final word. God does not cause the evil but His love is so powerful and His goodness so transformational that He works all things together for our good. Thus, in only a way that God could orchestrate, Judas’ kiss sets the stage for the redemption of the world.
Look back over you own life. Unless you have been blinded by bitterness and unforgiveness you will see God’s hand also has turned evil into good. You may have scars that you would not wish on your worst enemy but they are a part of who you are today. You would not be you without them. So give thanks to God for His goodness by learning to kiss those scars.