Jesus is Greater Than Bitterness – Genesis 42-45
If only… Why did I… How could you…
These are some of the most painful phrases in the English language. In an instant, the emotional pain both caused and received is communicated. Whether intentionally or inadvertently, one of the things at which we humans excel is hurting each other. This leads to regret on the part of the giver and resentment on the part of the receiver. They are two sides of the same bitter coin.
Genesis 42-45 continues the story of Joseph being sold as a slave by his jealous older brothers. At least 11 years have passed. Joseph has risen to a position of high authority in Egypt. Jacob has come to accept the death of his favorite son, though he still mourns. His brothers have attempted to go about their lives, but they still beat themselves up over what they did to Joseph; their first reaction to being interrogated in Egypt was, “Why did we do that?”
Upon recognizing his brothers, Joseph accuses them, threatens them, throws them in jail, and demands that the youngest brother be brought to him. It’s easy to see the bitterness Joseph felt toward his brothers. He could have continued down the path of revenge. He could have allowed his brothers to wallow in their agonizing regret. Instead, he plotted what can best be described as the most elaborate practical joke in the Bible.
Regret and resentment are bitter pills that corrode a person’s soul. Jesus offers a better solution. He offers forgiveness: the power to forgive those who’ve hurt you and the power to forgive yourself for the hurt you’ve caused others.
They say the only things you truly regret in life are the risks you don’t take. I disagree. There are many more words and actions that I’d like to take back than risks I shied away from. If resentment stems from not forgiving others, then regret follows from not forgiving yourself. As difficult as it is to forgive someone else, it’s even harder to forgive myself for the pain I’ve caused others. That’s something only Jesus can do.