Peggy and I were touring the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, an opportunity which, given the long-entrenched strife between Protestants and Catholics there, would have seemed improbable but for the “Good Friday Agreement” signed a little more than a decade prior to our visit. We viewed the dry dock where the Titanic was built—“She was alright when she left here,” the locals remind us—and as we drove along beside a section of the city’s “peace wall,” someone in our group asked, “What’s on the other side of that wall?” It was a tourist question, for sure, and though our driver maintained composure, there was a distinct tone of incredulity in his one-word response. “Catholics!” he exclaimed. We stifled our smiles before returning our thoughts to the sobering matter of peace by separation—a step, albeit, toward unity.
Reconciliation takes guts, for the real battle lies within, where fear yet cowers within a fortress of pride. Seeing his brothers for the first time in over 20 years, Joseph could have dismissed from his presence these he’d purposed to forget; instead, he skillfully led them on the more difficult journey toward a more glorious destination—forgiveness and oneness. He tested his brothers by recreating scenarios similar to those in which they’d once failed him: the opportunity to abandon a brother1, favoritism toward the youngest2, and the declaration of intent to enslave Benjamin.3 Implored Judah in response, “If my father, whose life is closely bound up with [Benjamin’s] life, sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die… Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.”4 This sacrificial act in humility was, for Judah and the others, a tacit confession of their past wrongs. All eyes turned to the Egyptian ruler.
“I am Joseph! Is my father still living?”5 he cried, no longer able to control himself. Before his speechless brothers, Joseph “wept so loudly that all the Egyptians [in his household] heard him.”6 And as his sobs purged Joseph of his pain, he released his brothers from their guilt. “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.”7 “He kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.”8 Theirs was no longer the mere absence of conflict, but the mature peace of reconciliation.
The apostle John wrote, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”9 Reconciliation with each other is to God as important as our reconciliation with Him, for in Christ—who is our peace10—there is no separation.
Father, guide me to reconciliation with those I have hurt and those who have hurt me. This is your will. Amen.
1 Genesis 42:15-20
2 Genesis 43:34
3 Genesis 44:17
4 Genesis 44:30-34 NIV
5 Genesis 45:3 NIV
6 Genesis 45:2 NIV
7 Genesis 45:5 NIV
8 Genesis 45:15 NIV
9 1 John 4:20 NIV
10 Ephesians 2:14 NIV