by Rob Tims
My 12 and 10 year-old sons share a bedroom. They have for 9 years with a minimal amount of divisiveness. But their current bedroom is also our playroom (did I mention their siblings are 3 and 1?), and also our laundry room (there’s a large closet housing our machines a few feet from their beds).
So the combination of these factors and their becoming pre-teens has resulted in a few more blow-ups that are sometimes humorous. For example, my 10 year-old is aware of all of the little things that his older brother holds dear: the Rubik’s Cube collection, the super-soft robe, etc. He has taken great delight in hiding those things from his brother, and my oldest has taken great delight in pranking the 10 year-old in retaliation. And as you’d expect, the situation escalates into a full-fledged argument, and maybe even some pushing and shoving.
These moments provide me with the opportunity to teach them a core attribute of the gospel-centered life: graciousness.
The Bible is replete with examples, but the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 shines bright. If there was ever a brother who could justifiably reject and even punish his siblings for their evil actions toward him, it was Joseph. But Joseph chose to be gracious, and Genesis 45:5-8 is a significant part of the story’s climax.
5 Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8 Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
From Joseph’s example, I see two marks of the gracious life.
First, graciousness liberates others from the worry and anger they feel when they sin against us. How fascinating that Joseph pulls his brothers close and, after all the horrors they committed against him, tells them not to be grieved or angry with themselves! Joseph’s gracious actions did not ignore their sins or the consequences they brought on the brothers, but his graciousness did liberate them from the guilt and anger these brothers had long felt. How powerful is grace!
Second, graciousness is rooted in our understanding of the sovereignty and providence of God (v. 6-8). Why did Joseph act graciously and liberate his brothers from their angst? Because he knew and believed that God had a plan and purpose in their sin, so much so that he ultimately found God responsible, not for their sin, but for the ultimate purpose in it: “It was not you who sent me here, but God” (v. 8). Joseph was gracious (rather than bitter) because he spent far more time reflecting on God’s good purposes rather than man’s evil intentions.
The implications of preaching this gospel-saturated truth are far-reaching. To know and believe that God has good purposes which supersede even man’s most evil intentions helps me liberate employees who are afraid to tell me they’ve made a mistake and children who want to hide their bad choices in fear of discipline.
It can even restore a relationship between pre-teen brothers who sleep who share a multipurpose room.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.