Ever want to “smite” someone?

Joseph made himself known to his brothers…

Hated by siblings? Betrayed? Treated unfairly? Abandoned? Sold as a slave? Hurt? If you are Joseph this is part of your story as you encounter your brothers after their destructive actions (See Genesis 37 read in church on 8/7/11 and Genesis 45 read in church Sunday 8/14/11 ).

How great, if he was human at all (and I believe he was), must have been his desire to take revenge, to “smite” his brothers then and there, to wreak his own kind of destruction on them and their families? He had the power to satisfy that urge.

Instead of smiting (what we expected, if we were honest) we heard that Joseph revealed who he was (apparently he was unrecognizable at first), invited his brothers to draw closer to him, he forgave them their hatred and treachery, and he embraced each one and wept with them in the moment of forgiveness. Here is a story of forgiveness of “biblical proportions.” It leaves me with many questions.

Foremost question: Is this kind of forgiveness (of biblical proportion) possible today? My one word answer, “Yes.” Which then leads to a host of questions: How is this possible? Are there any contemporary (20th and 21st century) models of such forgiveness out there? Am I capable of such forgiveness? Are we capable of such forgiveness? What role do we play in such forgiveness? What is God’s role in such forgiveness? What is at stake? I’ll admit I have more questions than answers. How about you?

I’ll have more to say about this passage—it is rich with mystery—but for now, I offer this poem as a way into the mystery of forgiveness:

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the windblown bud
which blooms in placid beauty at Verdun.

Forgiveness is the tiny slategray sparrow
which has built its nest of twigs and string among the shards of glass
upon the wall of shame.

Forgiveness is the child
who laughs in merry ecstasy beneath the toothed fence
that closes in Da Nang.

Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet
which still clings fast to the heel that crushed it.

Forgiveness is the broken dream
which hides itself within the corner of the mind oft called forgetfulness
so that it will not bring pain to the dreamer.

Forgiveness is the reed
which stands up straight and green
when nature’s mighty rampage halts, full spent.

Forgiveness is a God who will not leave us after all we’ve done.

____________
A poem by George Roemisch and quoted by Dear Abby in her column Feb. 10, 1998.

Author: Daniel Rondeau

I am a husband and father and an Episcopal Priest (from the Diocese of San Diego; "Retired" due to illness).

One thought on “Ever want to “smite” someone?”

  1. I’m glad this discussion continues. As we dwell on the story of Joseph, I am finding nuggets of truth I hadn’t considered before. My heart has been touched by the grace with which Joseph forgave his brothers, falling upon their necks and weeping. How easy it would have been to have strutted about in his position of power, dramatically revealed his identity, and then with haughty smile in place, “forgiven” them.

    Yet he wept and embraced them — even before they knew who he was. What a humble spirit, what evidence that God’s hand remained on him — his Spirit in him — no matter his tragic circumstances. What mercy and grace!

    I think about an instance many years ago when forgiveness was hard, almost impossible, to extend to two people who were close to me. They never asked for forgiveness and perhaps didn’t even know the hurtfulness of their words and actions. It took some time to heal, but with God’s strength, I forgave them. I’m ashamed to say, however, had I been Joseph and this couple had come to me asking for help, I would have been sorely tempted to let grace fly out the window. Forgiveness, yes. Helping them in their need, yes. But hugging them with tears in my eyes…hmmm.

    Forgiveness and grace, I’m learning this week, are inseparable.

    Two lines from the George Roemisch poem will long stay with me:

    “Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet
    which still clings fast to the heel that crushed it.”

    With God’s grace, it is the fragrance we remember–not the heel.

    And, “Forgiveness is a God who will not leave us after all we’ve done.”

    Amen, and amen.

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