Reconciliation takes time and it takes hard work. Surprisingly, it takes hard work, preparation, effort, and self-denial on the part of the one who has been wronged.
If those who are in the wrong do not yet want it, the soft answer of the aggrieved can and does turn wrath away. This is what we read in Proverbs 15: 1-
A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
What we should not seek to do, though, is to demand forgiveness before the aggrieved party has become ready to forgive. That, I repeat, takes a lot of hard work- preparation, effort, and self-denial.
Joseph, apart from his obvious calling to be God’s agent of reconciliation, had a lot of preparation for his role. Not only had his brothers hated him and meted out injustice against him. That trend followed him into Potiphar’s house. He had to deal with the disappointment of being forgotten by Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer. But again, all of that was according to God’s timing.
Through it all, however, Joseph had a sense of assurance knowing that he had special favour with his father. I am sure that he also remembered the promise of his dreams inspiring hope and leading him towards enduring faith in God. Things had gotten worse before they got better, but the promise of greater progress beckoned him on.
Joseph’s brothers returned to Egypt, prepared for their encounter with the powerful stranger. Guided by their wise father, they brought precious gifts. They also went prepared to pay back the money that had been left in their sacks and were prepared to pay double for their next purchase. They, too, were being prepared, to face their rotten selves. Having told the truth about their father and the brother they had left in Canaan was all part of their learning to speak truth.
They could not have anticipated joseph’s hospitality. This powerful strange was having them to dinner as guests of honour! This stranger was so happy to see their youngest brother whom he had requested to visit with them, so pleased was he that he gave Benjamin five times as much to eat as he gave them! What really was going on?
Little did they know that Joseph had to take leave from their presence one more time. He need privacy, to be before God only as he wept for joy! God’s will remained foremost in the situation.
That is key. When we seek to effect reconciliation, knowing that it’s God will, we must also be careful to respect God’s timing. Until it is time, let us do all the preparation we must- self-examination – the hard work of preparation, effort and self-denial. God always honours the contrition of our broken hearts.