Genesis 45: 3-8a, 15
Psalm 103: 1-13
1 Corinthians 15: 35-38a, 42-50
Luke 6: 27-38
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Some of you may already know that last year, 2021, was an incredibly difficult year, the most difficult one I have lived so far. Without devolving too much details, basically someone dear to me and extremely close, someone in whom I trusted, respected, and loved betrayed not only myself but also my entire family. Because of this event, the entirety of last year was hellish as politically motivated individuals attacked me, persecuted me, tried to get me arrested, or kicked out of the military simply because of my faith and faith guided morality. My trust in all those involved in this yearlong attack have been completely shattered, and I have zero confidence in their ability to do their job in a morally upright fashion, let alone follow Christ. They have become my enemy. Now I didn’t choose for them to become such but instead have always and still do provide the benefit of the doubt and second chances, ready to forgive the moment they repent of their demonic practices. They chose to be my enemy when they decided to actively ruin my life on the basis of my faith and faith guided principles.
Now I have heard many claim it isn’t right to have enemies. Such people are either in love with the world, or fear persecution, or will do anything in their power to make sure no one judges them. It creates a contorted view of Scripture where many falsely believe that as Christians we should be everyone’s friend. Do these people not understand that the world already hates Christ? If you wish to be friends with everyone then get rid of your relationship with Christ, for the enemies of God will naturally become your enemy the moment you profess faith in He who is the source of all that is good, true, and life-giving.
We live in a fallen world, and as such, many will scorn your existence, and if given the liberty, will cause your life to either cease or be tormented. You could be the nicest person in the world, the most giving and gentle and even politically correct member of the community, but simply because you have faith in God the world will look upon you and see you as someone who should be hated. You could do anything and everything right in the eyes of man, but if you believe in Christ then you are no comrade but enemy number one. Even among brothers, you may find discord, for not even blood relationship can shield you from persecution.
One such person in Scripture can attest to this harsh reality. Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Jacob Israel, was dearly loved by his father and was a receiver of dreams, dreams that alluded to all his siblings eventually bowing down to him. His siblings became exceedingly jealous over the love Joseph was receiving and even more furious over the thought that Joseph, of all people, would reign or may reign over them. Their pride got the better of them and as a result, they conspired against Joseph, and succeeded in excluding him from the family. No longer would he be able to reign over us! Shortly after, they became horrified over their own wickedness - what have we done; our own brother - but the damage was already dealt and, from their perspective, Joseph will no longer be with them.
The brothers who conspired against Joseph were his enemies. And like Joseph, in many other incidents we too will be faced or have faced with the trouble of seeing a brother turn enemy against us. When these things happen, what do we do? Do we return hatred with hatred? Do we return sin with sin? They harmed you; do they not deserve to also receive harm? It is very human to fall victim to such ill thoughts, a dreadful cycle of hate that ropes us in, but that does not make it right. Though it is alright to respond with justice, one must not confuse justice with malice. So how are we to respond?
I’m sure Joseph had some ill will towards his brothers shortly after this affront they committed against him, a brief fire of indignation. But instead of fostering what little kernel of pain he may have had in his heart he decided to instead have faith in God and kindle even more so a kernel of love.
God guided him from Canaan to Egypt where he was placed under a lord as manager. And even when the wife of the lord falsely accused him of sexually assaulting her thus leading to his imprisonment, Joseph still trusted God and God’s plan. So Joseph, though a prisoner, became a leader in the prisons whom the guards trusted in managing the needs of each prisoner. This is what led to Joseph’s interaction with the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, and through them eventually Pharaoh, for God then guided Joseph out of prison to be an advisor to Pharaoh. It was through the guidance of God and all of the pain associated with it that Joseph, Son of Jacob, who was supposed to have been killed, found himself before Pharaoh, interpreting a dream that would lend to Egypt and her surrounding lands the ability to weather the upcoming seven years famine.
Had not Joseph gone through this horrendous journey he would have never of been able to be placed in a position as lord where he could not only protect his own family from the famine but also caused the Hebrews to be well respected among the Egyptians. And thus the initial dream was finally fulfilled with Joseph’s brothers coming to bow down to the lord of the land, who was Joseph, in order to receive aid during the famine. This was the first time in decades that Joseph has seen his brothers, he knew them though they knew not him, and they were bowing to him.
Now upon seeing the tests that Joseph gave to his brothers, one may wrongly assume that Joseph was still angry at what they did to him and was punishing them. Such an assumption is incorrect because throughout each and every interaction with his brothers Joseph is fighting back tears and weeps many times. He had already forgiven his brothers, and the kernel of love he had fostered pained him as he tested his brothers. Eventually the flood gates overwhelmed him and he started balling in front of his brothers and it is while he was loudly weeping, loud enough that even the household of Pharaoh heard him, it was during this event that we read our first lesson. So as you read the first lesson, imagine Joseph with tears running down his face the entire time.
Joseph’s brothers may have become his enemy, but even in that moment God was still with Joseph and guided Joseph for God had a plan. And because it was obvious to Joseph that his brothers all regretted their sinful action and were truly repentant Joseph told them to not be distressed or angry with themselves, for even their sinfulness was used by God to achieve a grander goal.
You may have noticed allusions between Joseph’s story and Jesus’. Jesus was eventually betrayed and through this betrayal was sent through a shame of a trial that eventually led to His own death. But all this was according to God’s plan. God sent His son to die on that horrible tree for our sake, but how could He, the most innocent of lambs, be placed on the cross unless he was sent through a shame trial and how could such happen if he wasn’t arrested and how could he have been arrested if no one betrayed Him? The sin of Judas was necessary for Jesus to fulfill the grander mission of dying on the cross for the sake of bringing us eternal salvation. Yet in the face of all the wicked people who laughed and slandered as he died on the cross he cried out to His Father to forgive them for they knew not what they were doing.
Jesus was on the cross because of the sinful actions of many, but Jesus willingly died on that cross for the forgiveness of sins to include the sinful actions of His enemies who placed Him on the cross in the first place.
So what do we do with our enemies? Love them. Bless them. Pray for them. Have faith that God has a plan and that He will guide you and protect you and that something good may come out of your suffering. And even if nothing good comes out of such, or at least you can’t perceive any good coming out of your suffering, still love your enemies.
The world already loves those who love them. It is no secret that sinners treat those who treat them well in similar manner. It is easy to love those who love you. It is easy to do good things for those who do likewise for you. It is easy to give to those who give to you. These are all things that the world already knows, but what about to your enemies? Among humans, God has many self-proclaimed enemies, but God unconditionally loves each and every one of them. He grieves over our sins, and even more so when we turn away from Him. He is always reaching out towards us, with the gift of salvation ever ready, even when we curse Him. You think you have enemies? God has more, but he loves each and every one of them.
So I ask you this, not do you have enemies, Lord knows you do, but are you willing to pray for them? Someone has stabbed us in the back. Someone has bared false witness against us. Someone has threatened our lives. To those who are your enemies, will you ask God to guide them? Will you ask God to bless them with His Holy Spirit, with His saving grace? For I ask you this, who do you think is more in need of God’s grace: the one who loves you or the one who sins against you?
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, lend us your strength so that way we never lose sight of your unconditional love toward us and toward all humankind. In your most heavenly name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.