We always hear, “Love thy neighbor.” It has been ingrained in us since birth, not just by our faith, but also by society. But what about those other people? The ones who have broken our trust, lied, cheated, stolen… murdered. They aren’t really our neighbors right? They aren’t good people! Since they have done evil beyond the norm, don’t they deserve to be treated badly? To have the same or worse thing done to them so they know how it feels?
“Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.” – 1 Corinthians 13:7,8a
The mystery of God is in His ability to love us unconditionally. We can see actions and hear words, but we don’t know people’s hearts or thoughts. Wouldn’t that drive you crazy? But God knows ALL of these things, and still loves us in our brokenness. Just think about that for a minute. He is beyond merciful by still giving us the opportunity to accept His gift of eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ.
How on earth are we supposed to love people who have done some pretty awful things to us and others? Well, if we have a God who loves us in all of our brokenness, we should love and forgive others who are broken. But it’s still not easy. Let’s take a look at Joseph. In Genesis 37 Part 1, we see how Joseph loves his father and works dutifully, but he is isolated as all of his brothers despise him with jealously. Even so, Joseph exhibits love for them continually.
Unaware of what was to come, Jacob asks Joseph to check on his brothers. They were in a land about 50 miles away (remember they traveled mostly by foot) because that land was rich and perfect for harvesting. With no questions asked, Joseph does what his father commanded, fully aware that his brothers hated him. He trusted God to take care of him, as God had showed him in dreams that he would one day rule over his brothers.
In hatred they disguised as good (excuses, excuses), the brothers conspired and planned Joseph’s death, a pretty gruesome one at that. But God showed his power in many ways. Reuben, who was younger than Joseph, had the most reason to be jealous. He should be Jacob’s favorite! He is the baby! Right? God is too cool. He softened Reuben’s anger just enough to spare Joseph from slaughter. God used the youngest in a group full of evil thoughts and darkened hearts. Next, a caravan just happens to be passing by to tempt Judah into profiting from selling his own brother into slavery, sparing Joseph from starving to death in a dried up cistern. And God still has more up his sleeve in the next chapter…
P.S. Does this plot sound familiar? Jesus came to the earth to save us, fully aware of all those who would be against him. Those who hated him so much, would be willing to torture him and hang him on a cross to die a painful death. Even one of his own disciples. But He came to save us anyways.
The Lord asks us to do some crazy things. For me, the lessons in this chapter are some of the hardest. Forgiving people who may never be kind to us. Loving those who have done great evils. We must remember God is bigger than any obstacle. He has our back. We find peace through the Bible, in a Christian community, and through the assurance that it gets a whole lot better upstairs.