Fear. Fueled by guilt. Driven by self-preservation.
Jacob fears being found-out by his father, Isaac. He fears Esau’s wrath…and revenge. He fears the disapproval of the Canaanite and Perizzi people. And in Genesis Forty Three, he fears sending Benjamin to Egypt. His fear is fueled by guilt. And his refusal to send Benjamin to Egypt is driven by self-preservation, “If harm comes to him…you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow.”
Jacob’s sons fear Joseph when they first meet him. And on their second visit, they’re terrified. Their fear is fueled by overwhelming guilt. And their act of bowing repeatedly to Joseph (which ironically fulfills the dreams that started the whole “mess”) is driven by self-preservation, “He wants to attack us…and seize us as slaves.”
The cycle of sin and guilt and fear keeps us locked in a cage of paranoia. Actions have consequences. When we hurt others (or act in ways that could) we aren’t just sinning against them. We’re living opposed to God’s perfect Will. And that always causes division. Division between us and other people. Division between us and God.
Thank goodness we’re not as guilty as Jacob or his sons!
Oh wait. Of course we are. Not because we’ve made the same bad choices or committed the same crimes, but because we are born with a sinful nature, into a sinful world. And where there is sin, there is guilt.
But here’s the beautiful thing. Joseph invites his brothers into his home, washes their feet, weeps for the love of Benjamin, and serves them a great feast. Though their sin is real and they have every reason to fear, Joseph offers mercy instead of condemnation. He is kind and generous and (coming soon) fully forgives.
Isn’t that what Jesus does for us? He is merciful and kind, forgiving us and setting us free from our cage of guilt.
I haven’t murdered anyone, sold anyone into slavery, or lied to my father to steal his blessing from my brother. But I sin. I saw a quote on Facebook that read, “The man with a clear conscience has a poor memory.” Isn’t it true! The moment Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, guilt was real. The moment Christ died on the cross and rose again, healing happened.
Thank Jesus that I don’t have to live in guilt, driven by self-preservation, because He has already preserved me. He washes me clean and refreshes my soul. May my life be a reflection of my grateful – forgiven – heart.