by Nathan Key
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many peopleshould be kept alive...”
I have a friend whose mother would not let her read Sylvia Plath when we were growing up because of a suicide that had occurred in her family. She wanted to keep the broken pieces hidden in the corner, and was afraid that the candid words of “The Bell Jar” and other stories would bring up ideas in her daughter's head that would ruin her forever. In some way, I think my flannel-graph wielding Sunday School teachers may have done something similar by shielding me from some of the flaws of biblical characters. I had a false impression from an early age of perfect patriarchs who managed to get into the bible because of the ideal lives they lived in beautiful relationship with God.
When I started reading the bible for myself, I began to see that the people in the bible were really messed up. The very first family in the bible is dysfunctional. Within the first few chapters of Genesis, Adam and Eve are in a power struggle and their first son ends up killing his brother. Over the next few pages- a world of people are introduced who are consumed with murder, adultery, rape, lies, thievery, revenge, evil business practices, trickery, and oppression. The Sunday School characters I was taught to emulate as a child did not appear quite as ideal as I remembered.
But they did seem much more real than the felt cutouts I remember from my youth.
The reality is that we do live in a messed up, broken world. We have dysfunctional families of our own and a whole bagful of mistakes to lay out on the table. If all we had for inspiration were the lives of perfect people living in an ideal world of gladness with God- it would probably seem like a fairy tale story designed to rub salt in our gaping wounds.
But instead, we have a picture of people who weren’t perfect. They came from all sorts of problems. They were broken and sinful and often wallowed in depression and pain. They ended up in bad places and made a lot of bad choices with their lives that affected not only them, but generations that followed. But in the midst of this brokenness is set a brilliant hope- the hope that people of all backgrounds can still be used for good things.
Something Joseph said to his brothers a number of years after they beat him up and threw him at the bottom of a well has stuck with me. Instead of killing them on the spot, or even giving them a smug attitude of elitism in the outworking events that had brought them to Egypt begging for food, he turns and says to them- “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many peopleshould be kept alive, as they are today (Genesis 50:20)” Joseph did not hide his brother's terrible acts, but he did place them into the right perspective. And the right perspective will change everything about your life.
How has God displayed goodness, in spite of your own brokenness?