Garry continued to speak on the life of Joseph this morning, focussing on Gen 37:1-5. Joseph was the son of Jacob and Rachel and had eleven brothers and one sister; perhaps because he was born when Jacob was older and was the first child born to Rachel, his favourite wife, Joseph was Jacob’s favourite son. This led Jacob to give him a richly ornamented robe (the subject of the musical ‘Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’), a robe that signified his favour and which perhaps indicated his status (since it was long and therefore not fit for manual workers to wear.) Not surprisingly, this caused great envy and resentment amongst his brothers and this led to resentment – not toward Jacob (whose fault it was) but toward Joseph.
Family dynamics can be difficult at the best of times, and Jacob’s actions certainly did not make life easy for Joseph. We see here how jealousy, envy and resentment can lead to hatred, and how this can become a vicious cycle, leading us to do wrong. Anger in itself is not necessarily wrong; we see that God experiences anger (though He is slow to anger, not liable to throw hissy fits as we are!) and that Jesus too experienced anger (e.g. Mark 3:1-6) Our problem is that anger is difficult to control, and we are all too often angry when we are hurt, wounded, upset or jealous, rather than because something is wrong or unjust. James reminds us that human anger rarely produces the righteousness God wants (Js 1:20) and Paul warns us not to sin in our anger and not to let anger fester. (Eph 4:26) If we don’t deal with anger, it will lead us into a place of hatred which harms both us and those around us.
The way out is through forgiveness. Jesus is our ultimate example of this, for even on the cross, He forgave those who were guilty. (Luke 23:34) Joseph, too, ultimately becomes an example of forgiveness, refusing to allow his brothers’ hatred and actions against him to define who he is. Whether we are the one hating or the one who is hated, the answer to hatred is forgiveness. Love must fill our hearts so that we see people as individuals, rather than collectively stigmatising or belittling those who have hurt us (as is often the case during wartime, for it is easier to fight an enemy we can hate than to see people as vulnerable and capable of being wounded too.) Joseph leads the way out of hatred and gives us an example to follow.