St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Let Us Love One Another

Sermon on Genesis 50:15-21

Text: When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

On Maundy Thursday evening, Jesus said to his disciples of all time, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34&35) This action is the way that we show ourselves to be his disciples. We are to love one another. What makes the word “love” so special here is the word that Jesus used. It is not having a kind disposition to those around us. It isn’t something that we do in response to kindness shown to us. It is a choosing to love. It means loving someone when they aren’t loveable. As we study this account from the book of Genesis, we will see this type of love in action. We pray that we learn from Joseph’s example and, in so doing, might better obey the command that Jesus gave. LET US LOVE ONE ANOTHER. 1. Love Forgives And Forgets. 2. Love Goes The Extra Mile.

It was an emotional time for the family of Jacob. This patriarch, the father of twelve sons, had died at the age of 147. The family buried him in the land of Canaan. This was not the only emotion that the brothers of Joseph felt. They were also filled with fear. They said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” (Verse 15) To help us understand their fear, let’s do a quick review of what had happened prior to our text. Out of all of the sons that Jacob had, Joseph was his favorite. Jacob made no attempt to hide this fact. The brothers of Joseph resented him more and more, until in their hatred of him, they sold him into slavery in Egypt. As he served in the house of the Egyptian Potiphar, Joseph was wrongfully accused of accosting Potiphar’s wife. As a result, Joseph was sent to prison. He spent years there. Then, Pharaoh had a dream that he could not understand. God gave Joseph the ability to interpret the dreams. There would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. As a result of Joseph’s interpretation, Pharaoh made him second in command of Egypt. After meeting with his brothers several times, Joseph revealed his identity to them. He invited them to come to Egypt, where he would provide for them. All had gone along well, until Jacob died.

Now the brothers were filled with fear. What if Joseph had only been nice to them because their father was still alive? Joseph had never given any indication that he was still angry with them, but what if that was all a front? As the second in command of Egypt, he could easily have had his revenge on them. So, the brothers send a message to Joseph. “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” (Verses 16&17) We are told that, when he received the message, Joseph wept.

Emboldened by this display of emotion, the brothers came face to face with Joseph. “His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. ‘We are your slaves,’ they said.” (Verse 18) The brothers’ actions and their words showed that their repentance was genuine. They were willing to make restitution for all the wrongs they had done to Joseph by becoming his slaves.

In response, Joseph said to his brothers, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Verses 19&20) Joseph showed that he had forgiven his brothers. He did not hold a grudge against them. As a matter of fact, he saw that all of the troubles that he had been through were ultimately for a good reason. If he had not been sold into slavery, he would never have been in Egypt. Not only would the people of Egypt have starved. His own family would have starved. He completely forgave his brothers for the many sins that they had committed against him.

How do we react when someone sins against us? What is our initial reaction? Isn’t it often that we become angry and want to repay them for the evil that they have done against us? You say something mean to me. I say something worse back to you. You do something that hurt me. I will find a way to hurt you back. At the very least, we find ourselves holding on to a grudge against that person. We hold on to that grudge for a day, a week, for years. Every time we think about that person or see that person, the old feelings arise. We hope that someday they will get what is coming to them.

However, this is not the way that we are to act. We are to forgive other people when they sin against us. Perhaps, then, we begin to make excuses for the way that we feel. ‘You don’t know what they did to me. It was so terrible that I don’t think I can ever forgive them!’ While I am not downplaying what may have been done to you, the sin that was committed against you, I want to ask you a question. Is what they did to you worse that what Joseph’s brothers did to him? You might be minded to think that it was worse.

Then, let me ask you another question. Is what they did to you worse that what you have done to God? Think of all of the sins that you have committed against God. Using the picture that Jesus told in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35), how many bags of sin have we piled up against God? There are the sins of anger, hatred, thoughts of revenge, lying, complaining, etc. The number of bags of sin that we have committed against God would pile up to the highest heavens. If ever there was someone who would have been in the right in exacting revenge, it would be God. He would have had every right to condemn us to hell, where we would feel the full force of his anger for all eternity.

Yet, God chose to forgive us. He didn’t forgive us by pretending that the sins never occurred. He is a just God, who said that sin must be punished. However, rather than punishing you and me for our sins, he punished Jesus in our place. Jesus, who never committed a single sin, went to the cross. He took our massive load of sin upon himself. On that cross, the Father punished his Son in our place. When Jesus rose from the grave, the Father announced to the world that sin has been forgiven. He does not hold a grudge against us. He loves us and has welcomed us as his dear children. He reassures us of this forgiveness as we read his Word. Every time that we partake of Holy Communion, Jesus comes to each one of us, individually, and says, “I have forgiven your sins. Don’t be afraid.” God has forgiven our sins and has forgotten them. We hear in Psalm 103: 12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

How can we show our gratitude for this wonderful gift of forgiveness? We are told of one way in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” We forgive as we have been forgiven. We forgive each other to the same extent that we have been forgiven. This means that, when someone sins against us, we forgive them. We don’t wait until we think they are sorry enough. We forgive them. When we start to feel that old grudge start to rear its ugly head, we say to ourselves, “I have forgiven them.” It is true that this is not an easy thing for us to do. However, when we think about the mountain of sin that God has forgiven us, it motivates us to forgive the sins that others commit against us. That is why we continue to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” One way that we show love for God is to love one another by forgiving and forgetting.

Joseph could have thought to himself, ‘I have forgiven them, but I am not going to have any more to do with them.’ However, that is not what he did. He told his brothers, “I will provide for you and your children.” We also read that, “He reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” (Verse 21) In all likelihood, the consciences of the brothers continued to flare up from time to time. Joseph continued to tell them again and again that he had forgiven them. He didn’t say it, either. He showed that he had forgiven them by continuing to provide for them. He didn’t owe this to them. He didn’t owe them anything. However, he chose to go the extra mile and show love to his brothers.

Christian love would have us do the same thing. It may well be that the person who has sinned against us may continue to have their consciences bother them. We can reassure them that we have forgiven them. We also remind them that God has forgiven them, as well. There is nothing sweeter to the ear of the guilt-ridden conscience than that they are forgiven. Moreover, we also go the extra mile and show them that we have forgiven them. We have all heard the phrase, “Kill them with kindness.” The thought behind the saying is that we are extra nice to those people who are mean to us so that they feel bad about themselves. That really isn’t the reason that we are to go the extra mile for those who sin against us. Rather, it probably should be that we “Heal them with kindness.” We show that we hold no grudges against them. We show love for them by doing what we can for them. Human nature would say that we don’t owe that to them. It’s true. We don’t owe that to them. However, we choose to show love to them. Instead of thinking, “What can I do to them?”, we ask ourselves, “What can I do for them?” This is reflecting the love that we have been shown. We go the extra mile for them, because God went the extra mile for us.

It says in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” In that one verse, we are reminded of so many different things. First of all, God loved us. God loved us before the creation of the world. God loved us so much that he sent his Son into the world to be our Savior. God loved us and made us his children. He loved us first. Now, how do we respond? We love. We love God for all that he has done for us. We love God by living lives that say “Thank you” to him. We love him with our thoughts, words, and actions. We also show love to God by loving the people around us. We choose to love, even the unlovable. This includes forgiving each other as we have been forgiven. It means that we want to go the extra mile for one another. We pray that God would increase our love for him and for one another. Out of love for him, may we follow Christ’s command, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Amen.