“Guilt is like the red warning light on the dashboard of the car.
You can either stop and deal with the trouble,
or break out the light.”
– – Source unknown
One of the things that makes the story of Joseph so appealing and memorable is how the people in it change. In my message yesterday, we saw how Joseph’s brothers are confronted with the opportunity to do the same thing to Benjamin as they did to Joseph. Years before, Joseph’s brothers abandoned him when they sold him as a slave and now they have the opportunity to also ditch Benjamin in Egypt. This option is presented to them by the Egyptian governor as a quick and easy way to solve their problems and head back home to Canaan.
However, the guilt that has haunted the brothers has had at least one positive effect: The brothers have changed for the better. Instead of hightailing it back to Canaan, they choose to meet with the governor and plead for Benjamin’s life.
But they aren’t the only ones who have changed: Joseph has changed, too. When we first meet him, Joseph comes off as a brat as he struts about in his ornate robe, tattles on his brothers, and indiscriminately describes his dreams of ascending to prominence. There’s no excuse for the brothers’ cruelty towards him, but he certainly knew how to make life miserable for them, too. Perhaps he’s haunted with his own sense of guilt.
Like his brothers, Joseph has also changed. As Pharaoh observed, Joseph has become “discerning and wise.” Joseph has been growing in ways that are enabling him to create reconciliation within his family, something that wasn’t even on his radar in his younger years.
The story of Joseph and his brothers inspires me to own up to my guilt, to recognize and confess the stupid things I’ve done that have hurt God, others, and myself. I see guilt as simultaneously a warning and a blessing, a call to stop doing something wrong and an invitation to experience grace. For when guilt prompts me to seek and receive forgiveness, there is healing and liberation. Do you want to join me in thinking about and responding to guilt this way? It’s not an easy process, but it’s one the Holy Spirit uses to slowly but surely make you and me more like Jesus.