Brothers and Sisters
And now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. Genesis 45:5.
George Washington Carver was born in 1864 to slaves living in Missouri. He could not read or write but as a young boy, after Emancipation, he had a burning desire to learn. Eventually he made his way to Iowa State University where he received an undergraduate degree and later a Master’s Degree in Botany. He was hired by Booker T. Washington, President of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, to teach and do research there. Both Washington and Carver believed the only way for their people to rise above prejudice and poverty was to work hard and perform useful jobs for the South. By the late 1800’s, due to the boll weevil, cotton prices were falling, plunging the South further into depression during the time of Reconstruction. Carver performed countless experiments on the peanut, sweet potato, soy bean, and pecan and revolutionized farming in the South, finding 325 uses for the peanut. Without exaggeration we can say a black man, the son of slaves, brought economic salvation to the South. Early in his career at Tuskegee Institute, the great inventor Thomas Edison offered Carver $100,000 to work for him in New Jersey. That would be equivalent today to several million dollars, and Carver declined, remaining at Tuskegee Institute for his salary of $1500 per year, saying that he had not been called to money but to serve the people of the South.
What moved one born to slaves, living in a time of great agitation and prejudice, to serve those who had so wronged his people? The answer, very clearly, is Carver’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Because he knew he had been forgiven the great debt of his owns sins, he knew he was obligated to forgive others the wrong done to him. He came to see God’s hand, what we call providence (making provisions for a future trip, for example), in all the affairs of his life. Like Mordecai who suggested to Esther that perhaps she had been raised up as Queen ‘for a time such as this’, Carver saw God in the details of his life. He understood that God had raised him up, had gifted him, to provide a profound and practical benefit to the South.
Likewise, after being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, after being falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and then imprisoned, God raised up Joseph, a type of Christ, to be the saviour of his people, providing the food they needed during the seven years of famine. Genesis 45 records a profoundly moving account of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers, saying that they should not be grieved or angry with themselves because God sent him before them to preserve them, to keep them alive by a great deliverance.
I want specifically to apply this to your relationship with your siblings and other brothers and sisters in Christ. First, concerning your siblings, may I suggest you forgive them for wrongs they did to you while growing up in the same household, Matthew 6:14, 15. I cannot imagine any family devoid of having cruel words or actions between siblings. What are those debts your siblings owe you? Can you remember harsh or degrading things they said or did? Will you release them of the debt they owe you? You also need to soften your heart toward them, allowing your forbearing spirit to be made known to all, Philippians 4:5. You very well know the weaknesses of character and behaviour of your siblings, but you are to be long-suffering toward them, giving them the benefit of the doubt. You are to remember the good times you had, though there may certainly be many bad ones as well.
Paul tells the Philippians to dwell on those things which are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good reputation, Philippians 4:8. Only by practicing these things can peace rule in your heart. And you are to move toward your siblings. Paul in Philippians 2:1, 2 commands them to have the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. The natural tendency is to move away from those who have hurt you, not bothering to maintain a relationship as you get older and move in separate arenas; but to maintain love, to be united in spirit, to be intent on one purpose screams out intentionality. Call, write, e-mail, invite your siblings to your home so that you may re-establish or further establish your blood relationships. Why? One simple reason is when your parents die, no-one else but you and your siblings will appreciate the details of your family life. Without your parents, you will feel very lonely and you will need each other even more.
And for brothers and sisters in Christ, I suggest you speak truth to each other, Ephesians 4:25. Those battling serious, chronic depression, those tempted to fall into grievous sin need brethren who will warn them, will ask them the tough questions, who willingly will risk their friendship to be truthful, who will encourage with the words of life. You need to share with brethren in need, Ephesians 4:28. I remember having only $15 one day while in Seminary and my wife said we needed groceries. What was she to do? I said, ‘Buy $15 worth of groceries.’ For the next three days I anonymously received $25 in cash in my Seminary post office box, and to this day have no idea who gave it. The world will take notice when they see Christians living with such magnanimity. You ought to put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, malice, clamour, and slander. You can certainly disagree with brethren, even strongly so, but there is never any reason for caustic, vitriolic, vituperative speech. Don’t be a ‘grenade thrower’, one who comes into a meeting and hurls a verbal grenade at the unsuspecting audience, walking away from the resultant carnage and suffering. Instead put on speech and actions of kindness, being tender-hearted, forgiving others, just as God in Christ has forgiven you, Ephesians 4:32.
You may say, ‘You don’t know my circumstances. You have no idea how a sibling damaged me years ago with her words.’ You may say, ‘I don’t want to get involved with other people’s problems. I have enough of my own.’ I remind you of the Lord Jesus in Mark 10:45ff, telling his indignant disciples that they are not to be as the Gentiles who lord their authority over others. Instead they are to understand that those who wish to be great must become servants of everyone. Jesus gives himself as a redeeming, empowering example, telling them that he did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. You can forgive your siblings. You can move toward them. You can speak truth in love. You can share with those in need. You can put away anger and bitterness. You can always be kind and respectful. How? Are you not united to the Lord Jesus Christ by his death and resurrection, by the work of the Holy Spirit who indwells and empowers you? Who currently do you need to pursue? Have you been unkind in your speech? Will you repent and seek Christ for grace?
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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