Here's the audio link: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/23575548/110330Genesis37.mp3
Lord, may we see your love in your longsuffering. Grant us your mercy and hope, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
As we look this evening at the life of Joseph we see many parallels between his life and the life of Christians. Like Joseph, we are also loved by a father. Like Joseph, we are also recipients of a great promise in the future and many gifts in the present. And like Joseph, when we talk about God's favor, people seem to hold it against us.
I suppose this is a reaction we'd expect. After all, if I claim that God has shown favor to me, you might assume I am also claiming God has not shown favor to you. You might assume that I'm saying that I am someone special. This discussion of the Christian life then becomes a touchy subject. Why is it so touchy? Primarily because when I talk about God's favor on me I am specifically saying that I am special. That's an easily misunderstood message. It's something which can be offensive to people, and can become hateful very quickly.
What's different about a Christian as compared to Joseph? The Christian confesses to have a special calling from God. We claim that our Lord has revealed himself and shown lavish care for us. But, unlike Joseph, we are not the sole recipient of God's care. We confess that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world. We confess that Jesus' death is sufficient to atone for all the sin of the world. We claim that in his death, burial and resurrection Jesus redeems everyone who will believe that he died, was buried, and was resurrected for them. And he says outright that he did die for everyone. Yes, Christians are special recipients of God's favor. And God's desire is that everyone in the world should likewise receive his favor.
But people don't want to hear the whole message. Maybe they don't like the idea that a Christian is not the person who gets to decide his fate or chart his own path. But many people will avoid that issue by saying that Christians are simply a bunch of stuck-up snobs who want to seem special.
Whatever the reason given, we also see that Christians, like Joseph, endure persecution and hardship. And why do we receive this? It's specifically because, though we claim to have heavenly blessing, we show ourselves to be quite harmless. Oddly enough, Christians are at once the least dangerous and most feared people in the world. In nations which are generally tolerant of various religions, Christianity is the exception. The Gospel is so powerful that it turns people against Christians. People seem to fear us because of our claims to immortality, righteousness, and divine purpose. They don't fear us because we have historically been the people who have provided charitable care for the sick, adopted orphans, cared for widows, fed the hungry, and taught people who could not afford teachers. But throughout the world people have a long history of fearing and persecuting Christians. Like Joseph, we are liable to being killed or sold by our brothers.
Like Joseph, we can also look at believers in Christ and see that they seem to benefit from God's favor. Even in our humiliation we have a confidence in Jesus. We have sustenance that often appears supernatural.
How does all this happen? Are we in danger here of preaching the Christian and not the Christ? Not at all. Why does the Christian have special divine approval? Because we are participants in Jesus, the Son of God, who is loved by the Father.
Why are Christians rejected in their society? It is because they follow Jesus, who was himself despised and rejected.
Why do Christians not retaliate when they are harmed? It is because of Jesus, who did not open his mouth to make a defense but accepted condemnation because of his love for this sinful, dying world.
Why do Christians have a supernatural hope? Because of Jesus who has died on our behalf and who rises again to preserve those for whom he died. Jesus Christ himself, God's only son, the beloved of the Father, came expressly to be rejected by sinful man, to be put to death for the sins of the world, and to rise again in newness of life, the firstfruits of the resurrection, the firstborn among many brethren.
Our Lord, we look to you, the author and finisher of our faith. Grant us your peace. Remind us of your great love for us. Remind us that you were rejected, died, and rose again to bring us to God. This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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