My little brother and I have fought many battles. Because he’s eight years younger than me, most of the battles weren’t physical. Mostly, he annoyed me, and I yelled at him. I would purposely annihilate him in sports, video games, and in any other way that my older-brother intellect and physical prowess would allow. Of course, over time, he was able to grow and adjust to my overpowering, and it eventually made him stronger than me. Growing into his ability to beat me at the same video games he once lost was, in his own mind, one of his greatest accomplishments in life. And as his older brother, it pained me to lose to him—a reality he readily rubbed in every chance he got.
Joseph reminds me of my little brother. As he rose to the relatively inconsequential ranks of video game victory, my jealousy and his pride brought consistent conflict into our relationship. After all, nobody likes to lose to their younger brother. However, for Joseph’s brothers, the stakes were much higher than childhood rivalries. It didn’t go over very well when Joseph informed them that, according to his dream, they would one day all bow down to him. While I can relate to why this angered his older brothers, it is clear that their reaction is prideful, selfish, and downright evil. Their disposition to destroy their brother rather than serve him would haunt them for years, as we will see as Genesis progresses.
No doubt, Joseph’s brothers responded sinfully. It would be easy for us to point the finger at them and think of how unimaginable it would be to sell our own siblings into slavery, regardless of how awful they could’ve been to us. Their actions were sinful, and God would deal with them. But we also need to look in the mirror at our inclination toward retaliation.
Whether with siblings or spouses or neighbors or co-workers, all of us at times despise others, particularly when they win an argument, disrupt our comfort and control, or obtain something we want. Though we may keep most of our hatred beneath the surface, in our hearts we can be tempted to write them off. If left unchecked, the ones we’re supposed to love can become as good as dead in our eyes.
When we look to Christ, we see that no one is expendable. Indeed, our sins condemn us and separate us from God. But He doesn’t send us into spiritual slavery; we choose slavery, and yet all the while, He pursues us. Joseph’s brothers sent him away against his will, but Jesus came to save us despite our own willful rejection of Him. May we respond to Him with gratitude and allow that gratitude to produce empathy in our hearts for those around us, even those whose sin can sometimes hurt us or make us uncomfortable.
Written by Brandon Smith