LifeWay Family Bible Series for Aug. 24
A primer for mending broken relationships
Genesis 45:4-8, 25-28; 46:1-5
By Tim Owens
First Baptist Church, Bryan
Joseph was sold into slavery by his 10 brothers because of jealousy. There was a broken relationship between Joseph and his brothers. In Genesis 45, one reads how God can heal broken relationships. If there is to be forgiveness and reconciliation in a broken relationship, the one who has been wronged must be willing to take the initiative. This is what happened in the life of Joseph.
Whenever forgiveness and reconciliation take place between estranged parties, there are certain spiritual dynamics present. First, there is conviction of sin. When a relationship is broken, sin always is involved. Usually both sides have sinned. For forgiveness and restoration to take place, there must be conviction of sin.
When the brothers arrived in Egypt, they did not recognize Joseph. He was a teenager when they had last seen him. He now had the appearance of an Egyptian. He spoke the Egyptian language. They could never have anticipated that their brother was a high-ranking official in the Egyptian government.
Joseph looked at them and said, “You are spies” (Genesis 42:14). He put them in prison for three days, and as they came out of the prison, they were convicted of their sin. They said to one another, “All of this is happening to us because of what we did to Joseph” (paraphrase of Genesis 42:21).
Second, there is confession of sin. Reuben spoke up and said: “I told you we should not have sold the boy. His blood is now upon us” (paraphrase of Genesis 42:22). They began to confess their sin openly.
Third, there is repentance. One recognizes definite signs of repentance in the 10 brothers. Joseph put tests out before them. He watched their body language and listened to their conversation. He detected absolutely no jealousy. He further tested them when he placed his cup in Benjamin's bag. Instead of blaming Benjamin, they all came back and said, “We will all face the consequences of our sin” (paraphrase of Genesis 44:16). Joseph saw the brothers had genuinely repented of their sin.
Genesis 45 presents six steps Joseph took to restore the broken relationships with his brothers. First, he met alone with his brothers. He dismissed everyone except his brothers, and only before them did he disclose his identity. Restoration begins when the parties agree to meet together privately and discuss matters with openness and honesty.
Second, he offered them unconditional forgiveness. In Genesis 45:5, Joseph says, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here.” He spoke a word of forgiveness. Restoration is possible only when the offended party is willing to forgive with no strings attached.
Third, he affirmed God's sovereign plan. By this time, Joseph knew all that happened to him was according to God's plan. He said to his brothers, “I now know that God was working in all these circumstances.” If forgiveness and restoration occur, there has to be the affirmation that God uses even the most difficult circumstances to accomplish his plan.
Fourth, he actually restored the broken relationship. It is possible to meet alone with the estranged party, to offer them forgiveness, and to affirm God's sovereignty, but then to say, “You go your way, and I will go mine.” Joseph did not say that. He was willing to go the extra mile and say: “I want you and all of our family to move down here to Egypt because there are five more years of famine. I want us to be a family again.” When one is truly seeking reconciliation, the goal is relationship.
Fifth, he blessed his brothers with generosity. Joseph gave to his brothers and their families the region of Goshen. This was the best part of Egypt. It was the part of Egypt where the Nile River would not overflow, where they could raise their flocks and herds. Joseph said, “I want to give you the best I have.” Genuine acts of kindness and generosity are powerful in the process of restoring broken relationships.
Sixth, he enjoyed restored fellowship with his brothers. What a dramatic scene as Joseph went to every single brother, embraced them and kissed them. They sat down and talked together. There was restored fellowship.
Many Christians approach forgiveness like: “I am willing to forgive them if they are willing to own up to what they did. I am willing to forgive them if they are willing to suffer a little bit like I did. I am willing to forgive them if … if … if.” This is not the spirit of forgiveness.
The Bible never teaches that Christians are to wait for somebody else to respond when seeking reconciliation. Rather, it teaches that Christians are to take the initiative in restoring a broken relationship, and they are to offer forgiveness unconditionally. After all, this is what God has done for sinners. God took the initiative, and in his Son he said to the world: “I want to restore relationship with you. I want to forgive you. I want to bless you with my generosity. I want to enjoy restored fellowship with you.”
Questions for discussion
Are both parties always at fault when relationships crumble?
How can a person who has been wronged forgive enough to make the first move toward reconciliation?