Walter Brueggemann  

On Joseph and His Brothers

Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph! Is my father still living? But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, Come close to me.

When they had done so, he said, I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been a famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, 'This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don't delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me - you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.

You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. (Genesis 45:3-15)

Our capacity to know and understand, to decode and analyze bewitches us. We imagine that we can see our life whole and clear, and know how to act wisely. Such a capacity for clarity seduces us into being very sure. We end up knowing exactly who we are and who God is and what God wants. It makes us sure and often strident - frequently so sure as to be destructive...We act as though we know fully, too fully, the mind of Christ. Such a neat little morality does not allow for the largeness of god's hidden way, which is more generous and more merciful than we can imagine.

In the small, contained world where we live most of the time, we know whom to trust and whom to fear, whom to love and whom to hate. We get it all mapped out into good guys and bad guys, and everything is scheduled and predictable. Jesus' teachings on loving our enemies are not a little romantic lesson in feeling good about everybody and acting silly. It is rather a rich, evangelical statement that there is more to life than our capacity to contain it all in our little moral categories.... For, says Jesus, if you reduce your life to the simple practice of loving your friends and hating your enemies, of being generous only to those you like and trust, and resistant whenever there is risk, what's the big deal?

Anybody can do that.

Excerpt from Taking a Second, Painful Look