Trait: A Fool is not interested in resolving conflict and will not listen to reason.
Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
Trait: A Fool in relationships causes others to suffer with his destructive behavior injuring body, soul, and mind.
Psalm 73:6-8: “Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment . . . They scoff and speak with malice; they threaten oppression.”
Trait: A Fool is mocking and threatening, violent in some form, and is malicious in their relationships.
Fools can be compared to rough sandpaper that does not beautify anything it scrapes up against. Instead it creates deep gouges that mares the original beauty of the object.
Take time to think through these scripture passages and identify those that are Fools/Abusers in your life. Knowing what you are dealing with is the first step to relational wisdom.
Overlook, dismiss, or hide abuse
When a church or family ignores spousal abuse, it enables the abuse to continue and flourish, and allows the abuser to perpetuate his criminal behavior. For many churches, it is easier to pretend everything is okay than to admit failures and dysfunctions within the congregation.
“If another believer sins, rebuke him . . .” (Luke 17:3 NLT) Jesus would expose the sin, offer grace and forgiveness to the sinner, and allow him to experience the consequences of his sin.
Make blind or unwise assessments
Even though she had a black eye from the beating by her husband, the pastor told her “your husband isn’t a wife beater.” He suggested that she submit to the elders of the church as they worked out this problem with her husband—who was the pastor’s close friend and largest financial contributor of the church.
Jesus would say, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” He would show the abuser the truth about his own wickedness, offer him the choice to repent, and then walk with him on the path to restoration and healing.
Place more value on the sanctity of marriage than the safety of women and children and the sanctity of life
Women who are battered should not have to choose between safety and the support of their church. However, many times they are reprimanded for leaving an abusive husband and coerced into quick forgiveness and reconciliation before the abuser has truly changed his behavior.
Excerpt from What Would Jesus Do? 1998 FOCUS Newsletter
Copyright FOCUS Ministries, Inc.]]>
This could be generalized so we don’t leave out males who are victims of domestic violence. We could say 1 in 4 people in the congregation will be or are victims of domestic violence and 1 in 4 are perpetrators.
Would we look at domestic violence differently in our congregations if we viewed it in terms of possible perpetrators? Would the church more readily enact responses of accountability for those who perpetrate abuse?
Since 1995, FOCUS Ministries, Inc. has been reaching out to women who are struggling in abusive and dysfunctional relationships.
Most of them belong to churches like yours. They sit in the pews on Sunday morning alongside their abusive husband. Perhaps you are unaware that behind the smiles and handshakes is a secret that is steadily destroying the entire family.
Statistics show that one in every four women in each church community are being abused by their partner or they have been at some time in the past. One in every four—count them! How many does that make in your congregation?
If you are skeptical about this statistic being true in your church, please consider the following reasons why you may be unaware:
1. Women may be hesitant to come to you with their story if you have not addressed the problem of domestic violence publicly from your pulpit. When was the last time you took a strong stand against violence (verbal, emotional & physical) from the pulpit?
2. When they finally get up the courage to tell someone, women need to know their pastor will believe them, will maintain confidentiality, and will be willing to help. How approachable, trustworthy, and safe are you?
3. The abuser may be one of your staff, deacons, Sunday School teachers, or your biggest tither. Are you willing to confront someone you respect and trust about their abusive behavior?
4. You may have missed the warning signs that should alert you to suspect domestic violence. Do you know the classic profile of an abuser and a victim? How skilled are you in determining who is telling the truth?
5. Many Christian women who are being abused remain silent because they have been told by their pastors to pray harder, be more submissive, cook their husband’s favorite meals, keep a clean house, and develop more patience and understanding in order to make their husband happy. Are you guilty of giving well-meaning advice without knowing what is really going on behind closed doors?
6. Many women will only share part of their story to see how you will react. You will only see the tip of the iceberg. When someone comes to you with a relationship problem, how deeply do you probe? How seriously do you take her concern?
7. You may be so focused on a particular ministry in your church (overseas missions, evangelism, prison ministry) that you don’t notice the needs in your own church family. Is your church unbalanced in its outreach?
8. You may be avoiding the obvious need because of legal and personal risks of getting involved. How far are you willing to go to help someone in crisis?
9. You did not receive training in seminary on how to deal with domestic violence, and you think annual marriage conferences will take care of the problem. Are you willing to learn new skills for dealing with domestic violence that will not work in regular marriage counseling?
10. You may not want to know what is really going on because issues of abuse are hard to deal with, and you don’t want to be perceived as being soft on divorce if you advise someone to leave an abusive marriage.
Since the beginning of FOCUS Ministries, we have offered our services and literature, free of charge, to pastors and churches who want to learn more about domestic violence. Very few have accepted our offer to supply their churches with literature or lead a workshop on domestic violence.
Has your church invited local ministries (crisis pregnancy centers, food and clothing ministries, etc.) and missionaries to speak to your congregation? Are you supporting them financially? I commend you for this. These are all good outreaches which need to be supported by the local church.
Unfortunately, many families are suffering in silence because the plague of domestic violence is being ignored, and ministries like ours who want to help are struggling financially because the Christian community does not see the need to partner with us.
What will it take for you, as a pastor, to take this problem seriously? Sadly, many people don’t get involved until domestic violence affects someone they love—a daughter, mother, friend, neighbor. We are confident the problem is already pervasive in your congregation, whether you are aware of it or not. Since someone you love is being affected, won’t you take action now? Here are the tools you will need:
Domestic violence has many facets which cannot be compared to difficulties in typical marriages. The method of counseling is entirely different. If you do not understand the mindset of an abuser, you will not be able to help his victim effectively. In fact, you may put her in greater danger.
If you are not aware of the dynamics of domestic violence, make it a priority to learn. We are available for speaking engagements, to present workshops, or work with you one-on-one to help make you and your church more aware. We provide training for support group leaders if someone in your church wants to facilitate one, and our Pastor’s Guide to Domestic Violence is an invaluable resource for pastors and lay counselors.
When you understand that an abuser feels justified by scripture to “keep his wife in line” because he is the head of the house, you must clarify your sermon on the husband’s role to explain about “servant leadership,” as well as defining specific actions that are considered abusive. You should remind men that scripture does not give them permission to punish or discipline their wives, even if they are not submissive. God is the one who disciplines his “adult” children.
When you teach about submission, don’t stop short by just instructing wives to submit to their husbands. Husbands are to submit to their wives; children are to submit to their parents; employees are to submit to their employers; and we are all to submit to God (Eph. 5:21-32)
Explain Jesus’ style of servant leadership which had nothing to do with external control or coercion. He did not use His power to control and demand, but to invite, nurture, and serve.
Are you aware that many good Christian men in your congregation view woman as “second-class” or “less than” men. They may not openly admit to this attitude, but listen closely to their jokes and occasional references to the belief that men are superior to women and are entitled to certain advantages and rights. Be careful in your sermons to clearly define the man’s role and responsibility in the home and at church which should be modeled after Christ’s example of humility, servanthood, compassion, forgiveness, and long-suffering. Remind them of the scriptures which indicate men are not spiritually superior to women (Gal. 3:28; 1 Peter 3:7).
If you harbor a secret attitude of superiority, ask God to reveal truth from His Word and for a teachable spirit.
Compassion will move you beyond good intentions to love in action. Ask God to give you the compassion of Christ as you shepherd His people.
Getting involved in domestic violence is very risky and messy. Many people shrink back because they are afraid of personal attack. If you have the courage to get involved, you may be threatened by a lawsuit or by bodily harm to you and your family. If God has called you to defend the defenseless, just as Jesus would do, are you willing to lay your life on the line for someone else? Steve Dresselhaus, a missionary pastor in Mexico (who has been threatened with guns, machetes, and other weapons for helping victims of domestic violence) wrote, “My church needs to know that serving Christ is an action lifestyle, not an academic one.” Ask God for the courage it takes to go the distance.
You will need to rely on wisdom from above to discern the truth about a violent situation. Most abusers are very clever and charming. They will try to convince you their wife has a mental problem and needs help. They know how to use religious words and tears to convince you they have repented and changed. You will need discernment when a victim denies being abused in order to protect her husband, and wisdom to know how to proceed without putting her in greater danger.
One pastor so accurately observed, “We in America, with our love for comfort, have done a pretty good job of focusing on the promises, the blessings, the wealth, and the perks of being Christians.” Will you give up your level of comfort to meet this great need instead of waiting for others to do it?
The abuser also needs your help. He is caught up in a cycle that needs to be broken, and he needs support and accountability to change his mindset about power and control. Are you tough enough to encounter rage and hostility from someone who may not want to change?
The victim doesn’t need you to take over control of her life. She already has a controlling spouse who has convinced her she is not capable of making decisions on her own. She needs tender compassion and respect from someone who will present her with options so she can make choices and regain her dignity and self-worth.
When you promise confidentiality, you must keep it! Don’t make the mistake of sharing your conversation with the victim’s abuser, even if he is a friend or serves on your board. When you promise to help someone, follow through. Don’t place strings on your help, and don’t bail out when the going gets tough. Guard yourself from getting emotionally or sexually involved with someone who is looking to you for strength.
Providing help and safety is your second priority. The first priority is to help them find their hope in God, not in the church or the legal system. Help them put their pursuit of God before their pursuit of a better marriage. Ask God to help you put the safety of women and children above your desire to preserve the marriage at all costs.
Refuge requires resources. The church needs to provide safety and financial help for victims of domestic violence. Don’t depend on government-sponsored agencies to do what the church should be doing. Generously support Christian-based domestic violence ministries prayerfully and financially. We desperately need your help!
Love in action is no less important than evangelism. Is your church off-balance in its priority? Will you allow God to refocus your direction?
Our plea to pastors and churches is that you get as involved in saving lives as you are in saving souls!
© 2004 FOCUS Ministries, Inc., www.focusministries1.org]]>
All of us have from time to time said things that we later regret. Emotions run high and anger comes to the surface. There are, though, individuals who consistently remain in a pattern of behavior using words to destroy others out of a sense of entitlement, superiority, and power. In James 3:6 we find, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
These abusive people can even profess to be “Christians” using this mask to cover up what is really in their heart. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:9-10 NIV
When confronted with a verbally abusive person, we have a tendency to explain or defend ourselves over and over again hoping to prove that their statements are false. This only gives the abusive person more ammunition to use against the victim.
In Patricia Evans’ book, The Verbally Abusive Relationships, she states, “If you are encountering abuse and feel that if you could explain things, he’d understand, remember this: If someone started throwing rocks through your windows, you would be more inclined to tell him to stop than you would be to explain to him why he shouldn’t throw rocks. Verbal abuse is like a rock thrown through your window.” Verbal abuse shatters the window (our spirit) of our heart into pieces. Eventually we will no longer know who we are.
Therefore it is critical to identify the categories of verbal abuse.
Responding to verbal abuse in appropriate ways is a difficult task. Our tendency is to become defensive and angry ourselves. This only adds fuel to the fire. Setting boundaries such as telling the abuser to stop, walking away or becoming emotionally distant are appropriate responses for a victim who remains in the relationship.
Paula Silva © 2009 FOCUS Ministries, Inc. www.focusministries1.org]]>
This familiar passage of Scripture reveals to each one of us the extent of God’s love on a personal level. To think that God cares so much about our eternal destiny that he would send Jesus directly to us is beyond our full comprehension. Once we begin to grasp the depth of his love, we realize the magnitude of a relationship with God. We become aware of the ways that God shows his love day by day.
As we search further in Scripture, we note in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from his love. His unconditional love becomes more evident as we draw nearer to him. As we lean on him, his hands of compassion and grace are extended offering himself as a personal gift.
We find ourselves giddy at times thinking about his unconditional love. We look forward to each moment to bask in his grace as we absorb God’s love like a sponge. We carry this mental picture of dancing around in a meadow dotted with multicolored flowers as the sun shines warming our hearts. We catch the rays of his love and hold it close to our soul.
With God’s love comes truth and accountability. Each of us is responsible before God for our words and actions. If we do not follow God’s ways, there will be consequences. The consequences are God’s tough love toward us.
In Galatians 6:7-8 we read, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
When the Israelites would stray from God, he would send prophets to warn them about their wicked ways. If they did not turn from their sin back to God, he gave consequences like death and captivity.
Our relationship with God is not just one-sided. It is to be a mutual relationship. He expects us to love him back not out of obligation but because of a burning desire within.
¯ Do we stop to think about how much we are loving God and in what ways?
¯ Are our thoughts consumed with loving him back?
¯ Do we understand what encompasses loving God?
¯ Do we realize that obedience to God’s Word is part of loving him?
¯ Do we understand how much God desires for us to love him with all of our being?
¯ How do we love someone who knows our deepest thoughts and secrets?
Loving God is not a quick “I love you, God”, and then running off and doing our own thing. It isn’t leaving him a note on the counter hoping he will read it. It isn’t just going to church every Sunday.
Jesus himself teaches us in Matthew 22:35-40 how we are to love God.
“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Every part of our being is to be actively engaged in loving God. God first loves us. We receive it. Then his love flows through us to others. Our words and actions toward others will be the evidence.
People we meet no longer are invisible to us. Our sensitivity to others’ needs becomes heightened. We become more aware of what lies below the surface of the mask they wear. Some needs may be more obvious such as food, clothing, and shelter. Others may be emotional pain, lack of self-worth, grief, abuse, and distrust. They may just need a listening ear and a caring relationship.
Filling the needs of others is an act of loving God. For in Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Let’s go back to the verse in Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The second part of the Scripture verse is often overlooked. We have a hard time understanding what that means. Taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually is critical. Each of us is to be a good steward of the life God has given us. We are not to become self-absorbed but self-caring.
¯ Self-caring is being in touch with what is going on inside our heart, mind, and soul.
¯ Self-caring involves putting boundaries in place in order to not overextend ourselves in situations or relationships.
¯ It is not allowing someone to destroy us physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
¯ Self-caring is learning how to recognize people who are “toxic” and developing tools to handle destructive relationships.
¯ Taking time to relax, enjoy the beauty of nature, having fun, and surrounding ourselves with loving relationships become another area we need to incorporate in our lives.
Self-caring and keeping our focus on the one who created us minimizes our anxieties, our fears, and directs our attention to God who is in control no matter the circumstances. His embrace is always available. Fall into the arms of God and put your head on his chest for he cares for you.
By Paula Silva]]>
The counselor allowed him to divert the session to my past which was almost 30 years ago–this happened after she questioned him about anger issues. He raised his voice to her and she allowed him to talk about my past so I would look like this awful person. She says that even if he makes me pay the price in some way, shape or form in the future for saying something he doesn’t like that its better to pay the price rather than suppress it–does that make sense to you.
Nothing addressed about his behavior. It has become all about me and my response to it–which is usually a feeling of being shell shocked and knocked off of my feet. What do you suggest? The fact is that all of his past behavior is the reason things are in the state they are in now–but he fails to acknowledge any wrong doing–a Christian psychologist told me that he has narcissistic personality disorder. Life is all about him at everyone else’s expense. How do you even begin to address these issues in a setting where he is present and the counselor doesn’t seem to get it?
In abusive relationships, we do not recommend couple’s counseling. Often the abuser will manipulate the sessions. Retaliation toward the victim will occur after the sessions. We recommend each person seek out their own individual counseling to work on their own issues. When both parties have worked through their past or present issues, then and only then do we say to go into couple’s counseling. What you have experienced in couple’s counseling is common. The counselor should not have continued counseling both of you together.
In your relationship, you need to know when you can speak truth to him and when to walk away. You need someone to come into his life and hold him responsible for his behavior. I think your counselor was trying to get you to stand up to him by setting a boundary but at your great expense. The only hope of someone changing is that he receives consequences for his behavior. In these kinds of relationships though consequences need to come from an outside source. Boundary setting is done in baby steps. A great book to read is Boundaries in Marriage by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Safe People is another book by them.
I can understand your counselor’s concern about stuffing your feelings. That could be anger turned inward. This can lead to depression, bitterness, and health problems. Learning appropriate ways to let it out is essential. But in your case, it sounds like the counselor does not understand the dynamics of domestic violence and the manipulation that occurs by the abuser let alone the danger it puts you in. It sounds like you are being blamed for your husband’s behavior.
My suggestion for you is to stop couple’s counseling and enter into counseling just for yourself. I would also suggest that your husband see a different counselor than the one you see. Narcissist people are their own god. Until they make the true God their god there is no hope. They will continue to abuse others around them.
As you were born, your first cry echoed the room. Although your cry was not in understandable words, it expressed from your heart, LOVE ME! ACCEPT ME! What an exciting moment it was. A miracle from the hand of God had occurred. The miracle of life!
Then life happened. As you journeyed through circumstances and relationships, experiences came into your life. Some you could control and others were out of your control. These experiences remolded and reshaped you. Many may have wounded you along the way.
Look closely at Matthew 12:20-21. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”
Have you ever felt like a bruised reed as you wear the plastic smile upon your face? Did you at one time stand tall, upright, and sturdy rooted in confidence? Then something happened. You were bruised by the arrows of
A spouse’s or friend’s betrayal
Your own bad decisions
The wounds pierced your heart and the light of your life became dimmer like a candle’s smoldering wick. The mark of God’s twinkle seemed to be fading and doubts about being God’s Precious Daughter entered. You wondered if God made a mistake when he designed you.
To make sure no one would notice, you applied more foundation and makeup to cover up the hurt within. You busied your day with home, church, and other activities to keep from dwelling on the pain. Maybe you dressed yourself with determination or denial as you looked for coping mechanisms.
You garnished your neck with glimmering emblems of royalty to mask the unworthiness you felt. Their brilliance drew attention away from the sadness in your eyes. Everything is fine became the proper response to those who asked.
The charade continued day after day. Numbness to feelings replaced the glow that was once visible. The tapes of what was said or done by others were set on replay. “A bruised reed . . . and a smoldering wick. . .”
Does that resonate with you? I know for many years it was a picture of me. Bent over and not able to look anyone in the eye for I bore the shame of my marriage that wasn’t working. As a Christian woman, wasn’t it my responsibility to fix it?
If someone knew the secret I kept, what would they think of me?
Did I deserve the abuse I was experiencing?
Was God displeased with me?
Did he take my imprint of God’s Precious Daughter from me?
These questions became part of a list that I carried in my mind and heart. It seemed like I added to the list on a daily basis. Slowly I adopted my husband’s perceptions of me. It was so subtle. These became labels that formed on top of God’s imprint.
For years I wandered aimlessly mechanically going through the routine of my day. Everything seemed meaningless. What purpose did I have but be subservient to my husband. A doormat. Less than. Not good enough. My self-worth plummeted and despair set in.
“A bruised reed . . . and a smoldering wick. . .”
Yes, I was a bruised reed and a smoldering wick. I became what I term as a nonperson. I had no right to feelings, opinions, thoughts, or ideas. Although I was an elementary school teacher with a master’s degree, all that was left was a shell of the person I once was.
It was amazing that in my job I was confident as I taught, yet at home I was afraid and walking on eggshells. I felt that everything was my fault. The man I loved was so well liked as a college professor, a neighbor, and a leader in our church. Something had to be wrong with me.
I spent many hours trying to figure out what the problem was. I am a person who commits and is loyal to that commitment. That can be a good trait, but it can place one in a situation that is not healthy. Instead of focusing first on God, my attention was drawn to the person who was sinning against me.
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,”
I may feel and appear like a bruised reed and a smoldering wick, but I will not be destroyed. God sees who I am, but he will not break me tossing me aside as useless and worthless nor will He blow out my inner light. Instead He will fill and nourish my soul through His Word and others. He will rekindle my flickering candle.
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”
God’s part is leading us from justice to victory. Our part is to put our hope in Him for He is the only one who can remold us into his creation.
As I travel back in time, I see the fingerprints of God all over my life. He lifted me out of the miry pit (a destructive marriage) to freedom to be who He created me to be, His Precious Beautiful Daughter. Although I rejoiced, I was scared to death. My earthly security was gone and the future was uncertain.
The transformation in me took time and the Lord’s patience. What was my purpose? I often asked. Quite honestly I was a mess. I was no longer young. My energy and strength were depleted.
God’s answer to me was to find others who were a mess and pray and encourage each other. I did not have to look far. We gathered together like quivering chicks huddling out of life’s storms. Slowly God purposed in me a ministry to help others to find hope and healing in Jesus Christ.
FOCUS Ministries was birthed when I was turning 50. Life wasn’t over. It was just beginning. The Lord was leading me from justice to victory. I had not been snuffed out or broken off. Instead I had been LOVED AND ACCEPTED. The cry we all came into this world claiming.
During the beginning of the ministry, God had to do a makeover in me. There were many layers of protection He had to peel off. He had to reveal to me that His twinkle, a mark of his perfection, was still on me. His love for me would never cease.
As I learned about boundaries and people pleasing, one by one the labels that covered the imprint of God’s Precious Daughter began to peel off. It was painful. He had to clean out the wounds I had incurred. That meant the band- aids I had placed on my heart had to be removed.
I felt like I walked through the valley of the shadow of death as Psalm 23 states. I had to die to my self-power and rely on His power within me.
This was my first step in putting my hope and trust in the Lord.
When we first decided on the name, FOCUS Ministries, we put the word FOCUS in capital letters. It is important to discover where our focus is. Is it on us and our circumstances or is it on the Lord. FOCUS also stands for Focus On Christ For Ultimate Satisfaction.
When we put our focus on the Lord, there will be an EXTREME MAKEOVER. The Lord only wants his best for us. What better hands to be in! The Lord must be our foundation from which we build our lives. If we do it without him, our lives will be a mess. We may look good on the outside, but inside our spirit is dying.
God can lead you to victory as he purifies your heart and reveals his purpose for you. The question is WILL YOU LET HIM? The choice is yours.
He has not removed the twinkle, the mark of his perfection on you. His imprint, God’s Precious Daughter, is still there. It has been covered up from the things you have experienced. The layers can come off with God’s help.
Remember: God is who He says He is. And He will do what He says He will do.
By Paula Silva
(No longer a smoldering wick!)
© 2011 FOCUS Ministries, Inc. May/June FOCUS Newsletter
This approach places a heavy weight of guilt on the victim of abuse if she does not comply. Shunning occurs and support is lost. In Scripture, we are told to guard our heart, yet the victim is put in a position of vulnerability without seeing evidence of change by the perpetrator.
In Scripture, Joseph experienced being sinned against by his own brothers. Sold to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver by his brothers, Joseph was taken to Egypt. Joseph experienced many transitions in his life from being in Potiphar’s house, to prison, and then to governor of Egypt.
As a famine permeated the land, Joseph was given an opportunity to meet face to face with those that betrayed him. He recognized them, but they did not realize who he was. He did not immediately embrace them with forgiving words nor invite them into his house to start on the road of reconciliation. Instead he tested them to see if there had been a heart change.
In Genesis 37– 45, the story unfolds. He speaks to his brothers through an interpreter although he did understand their words. Private conversations between the brothers revealed the intent in their hearts.
Joseph first accuses them of being spies. The brothers deny the accusation. When questioned about their family, they speak of their youngest brother, Benjamin. Joseph then administers the first of a series of tests.
“You will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of your number to get your brother, the rest will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth.” Genesis 42:15-16 NIV Then Joseph places them in custody for three days.
He then ordered one of the brothers (Simeon) to stay behind in custody while the others returned home to bring the youngest brother back. Joseph observed their reaction and listened to their response as they talked among themselves for he understood their language.
Joseph not only sent the brothers on their way with grain but returned their own silver. When the brothers discovered the silver in their sacks, they were afraid.
Since the famine continued, there arose a need for the brothers to return to Egypt. Their father, Jacob, reluctantly let Benjamin go with them. Reuben offered to sacrifice his own sons if anything happened to Benjamin.
As the brothers returned to Egypt with Benjamin, they not only brought back the silver that had been returned to them plus more. Meeting the steward first, they divulged the truth regarding the silver.
After being reunited with Simeon, the brothers were invited to Joseph’s house for a meal. The brothers were seated according to chronological age and then served the meal. Benjamin’s portion was five times greater than his brothers.
In the morning all the brothers were sent back home with sacks of grain. Joseph’s silver cup was placed in Benjamin’s sack as Joseph had instructed. When the brothers had not gone far, Joseph sent his steward with specific instructions to retrieve the cup.
In answer to Joseph’s accusations of stealing, the brothers stated, “If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.” Genesis 44:9 NIV. The cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. All the brothers returned to Joseph.
Upon seeing Joseph, Judah makes a plea noting the grief this will bring to their father. After dismissing his attendants, Joseph reveals who he is and reconciliation begins. Joseph’s actions were not in retaliation to his brothers’ actions long ago.
Joseph tested their:
The brothers told the truth about their whole family.
The brothers told the truth about the silver being returned to the steward
He was testing them for:
When Benjamin was given a larger portion at the meal
When Benjamin was given three hundred shekels of silver and five set of clothes
He was testing them to see if they were willing to:
Reuben was willing to sacrifice his sons if something happened to Benjamin.
All brothers were willing to return to Egypt as servants when the cup was only found in Benjamin’s sack.
Throughout the testing, Joseph had compassion on his brothers as he provided for their needs as well as their families. Often times Joseph would remove himself to weep. Reconciliation was only initiated after a period of testing.
There is much to learn from Joseph’s story. There must have been many emotions, discouragement, anger, and fear of the unknown as he was cast into another culture in a foreign land with no family in the midst of strangers. He could have been a very bitter man, but we see no evidence of this in Scripture.
Joseph wisely assessed his brothers. He desired relationship, but one in which there would be honesty and no mistreatment. The testing revealed that selfishness had been replaced with empathy for others.
During the years of separation from family, healing from the pain of betrayal had occurred. The timing was right for Joseph to move into forgiveness. He saw God’s purpose in what had happened to him.
The events were all part of a larger picture for he states, “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.” Genesis 45:5 NIV
Key points to remember:
Don’t let your desire for relationship blind you to evidence of a heart change in the offender.
Test the evidence for a long period of time to see consistency.
Don’t let the offender or others pressure you into reconciliation.
Ask for God’s discernment to determine if repentance is real or manipulation.
By Paula Silva ©2011 FOCUS Ministries, Inc. July/August FOCUS Newsletter]]>