Can the essence of power and its impact be truly understood without discussing forgiveness? Joseph, the second most powerful person in Egypt, chooses to forgive his brothers who threw him into a pit and slavery. To Joseph, it was settled.
In this episode, Melissa and Bishop Wright have a conversation about Joseph, what it takes to address tough issues, and that every individual person has the power to forgive and restore in our world and in our lives. Listen in for the full conversation.
Before listening, read For Faith.
Joseph is the second in command in Egypt, a glorious empire. He says it and it happens. And what does he do with the power over the people who have done him dirty? We don't have Joseph's father making an appeal to us, but we do have Jesus who is saying pray for your enemies, bless those who curse you. Who gets to win today with the power that we have? And everybody has power? This?Melissa:
is For People with Bishop Rob Wright. Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I'm Melissa Rau, and this is a conversation inspired by For Faith a weekly divan— a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week's devotion and a link to subscribe in the episode's description. Howdy Bishop. This week's devotion is based off Genesis, chapter 50, verses 15 through 21, which is the how to end the story of Joseph. You called it settled because, in Joseph's incredible forgiveness, mercy and grace toward his brothers, though revenge could have been his, their sins against Joseph were wiped clean. What did I miss?Bishop Wright:
Oh my God, nothing, nothing, I mean. I hope people know this story. If you don't know this story, this is better than Hulu. This is better than Apple TV. Man, this is better than Netflix. This is some serious stuff here, a good story. I want to highlight in this meditation that what we do with power matters. What you do with power is an opportunity to show mercy. Mercy is a specific application of power. Joseph has power over his brothers. The people who hurt him the most were his brothers, his siblings. His father ran a dysfunctional household and showed bias toward one child over other children. The brothers, out of vengeance and revenge through the kid down a well, were going to kill him and decided to make a couple of dollars off of him, sell him into slavery. People know this story. I hope Joseph ends up in Egypt. He ends up in prison. He's a bright kid, he makes a way, he ends up second in command in Egypt and then, lo and behold, the day comes, probably many decades later, when his brothers come into town as beggars. Famine has taken over the land and I guess who is in charge of providing for them in their vulnerable moment? But, dear brother Joseph, you can't beat that.Melissa:
That's a great story. I love the fact that, yeah, joseph foresaw that. Like that's literally what he told the brothers would happen, and it's great yeah.Bishop Wright:
Well, we have to say in defense of the brother well, if we can defend the brothers in any way, joseph is a smart Alec, you know, he's that dude, right, daddy's boy. He's bright and he knows it right, you know. So what does that say? Well, god can even use people who are smarty pants sometimes. Right, but they have to learn right. And so I guess what I really want to say was is that, you know, the brothers come hat in hand, beggars. Now, right, when they had power, they made a bad choice, they made a choice for murder, they made a choice for enslavement, but when their brother, joseph, has power, he makes a decision to not do vengeance. Now, what I say in the meditation is we have no idea about what it was like to be Joseph and to have these deep wounds and pain. I mean, nobody can hurt you like family. We just need to say that Nobody can hurt you like family, and so we can bring our heart and our head to this story and just begin to think about what it must have felt like to be disposed of.Melissa:
Right. Well, I like what you have to say about Joseph directing his pain to use his power for restoration and not recitation of injuries.Bishop Wright:
That's poetic stuff right there, Bishop.Bishop Wright:
There you go. Well, I mean, I write as a sinner, well, I love it.Melissa:
To me that's human nature. Yeah, I think it's human nature to count the ways we've been wronged, but I think self-differentiated folks, and likely the ones practicing a mature faith in God rather than themselves, are the ones who can really transform pain into power for good.Bishop Wright:
Well, I mean, who's being poetic now?Melissa:
Well, all right, but this is the big question Can you say more about what restoration even is?Bishop Wright:
Yeah, I think restoration is to move back into a relationship that is not driven by wounds and enmity Right, and so it is processing those very legitimate, very complicated emotions, right. So Joseph was actually hurt, he was actually disposed of, he was set adrift, and so that really happened. And so when we're talking about forgiveness, sometimes people think that we're talking about diminishing what has actually happened. Not in any way. In fact, the purest article of forgiveness is when you take legitimate assessment of what has actually been done to you, right, and so we're not talking about enabling any lack of self-worth here. We're actually saying you are worthy of better treatment and this is the treatment you received. Your feelings are legitimate and it's a both and right. I mean, that's the whole sort of bit about maturity. Right, it's holding too complicated and sometimes opposing ideas intention. So you matter an awful lot. You're made in the image and dignity of God. Right, you have value and worth, absolutely. And you were injured and these people did this to you. Yeah, they knew what they were doing, they did it to you, and yet scripture holds out for all of us, all of us. And yet to process that, to be set free from that right, is to forgive.Melissa:
And forgiveness isn't forgetting, no, it's not forgetting.Bishop Wright:
I don't think Joseph is ever going to forget that he was actually thrown down a hole, right? Yeah, it's now. I guess it's how you hold it, how you hold it right. And there will be people who will listen to me and say, yeah, but you don't know the pain I've suffered and, yeah, you don't know what they did to me and I've got my own little story too, by the way. And I think what helps me in those moments where I wanna sort of give primacy to my pain is that there's this 33 year old Jew who hangs on a cross in these buildings we call church, and my pain is not his pain and my betrayal that I've experienced is not the betrayal that he experienced. And so Jesus ends up being this wonderful symbol and friend to us when we want to climb a top our soapbox and talk about the pain that has occurred and happened to us. And also, I think we need to be mindful of the fact that we have inflicted pain as well. If we've been a human being in this world, we've not only endured but we've inflicted. And yeah, you can get into the game where you wanna talk about, but I've only inflicted pain at a three. Well, I've experienced pain at an eight. You can do that if you want to, but the truth of the matter is is that to live as a human being is to fall short of the glory of God and to inflict pain and endure pain. That's just the bottom line. What I wanna focus on is is that we catch Joseph in a moment. Joseph is the second in command in Egypt, a glorious, a glorious empire. He has all power. He says it and it happens. And what does he do with the power over the people who've done him dirty, as we would say right? And all they have? All they have is their fathers dying last words, and that is an appeal to forgive. Now we don't have Joseph's father making an appeal to us, but we do have Jesus who is saying pray for your enemies, bless those who curse. You right, love, enemy right. And so we're always at an intersection. Who gets to win? Today, with the power that we have? And everybody has power, and you have power to forgive. And let me just say as a pastoral piece here we don't always have the ability, power, strength, courage to forgive in a particular moment, and we may be really disoriented by the whole conversation, but here's what helps us. We can say today, in prayer, right In the car on a walk, sitting at the desk you know, lord, I know in your word you invite us to forgive. I'm just not there. Will you help me? See, I think that God blesses just the humble request, right? And so you know, help me understand God, and it may take some time. Again, we don't know Joseph's interior life. We don't know if we're talking about, you know, 10 years or 40 years, right? We don't know how long it took him to come to the place where he could extend forgiveness to the people who hurt him. We just know that we have this glimpse, in this sort of, at this inflection point, that he is able to provide forgiveness to those who hurt him the most.Melissa:
Friends are going to be right back after a short break. Hi, listeners.Bishop Wright:
Thank you for listening to Four People. A space of digital evangelism. You can keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. And now back to Four People.Melissa:
Welcome back, bishop, on page 855 of the book of. Conflare, oh Lord, I'm just saying. In the outline of faith, also known as the Catechism, it talks about the mission of the church. And the mission of the church is this it says the mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. So I'm wondering how have you seen this work done well in the church and or the world? Because, honestly, sometimes the church is an absolute fuster clock of walking wounded people who hurt people. I'm just saying, where have you seen that that restoration work done well?Bishop Wright:
Well, I mean, I think we saw it on a global scale when Desmond Tutu created that Truth and Reconciliation Committee where, as a nation, a new nation was trying to be born, a nation without apartheid. That they could have just done a governmental, legislative piece, but they decided to do a spiritual piece where people got a chance to speak into a group of people. That was not punitive, the atrocities that they had experienced and the atrocities that they have committed, that came out of the genius of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and that came to Desmond Tutu out of the genius of God in Scripture. So that was extraordinary. Now does that change the entire world? No, but that nation, in some ways, I would argue, is more healthy than our own nation, where we have chosen not to give voice to what we've done to women, what we've done to immigrants, what we've done to migrant workers, what we've done to black and brown people, gay and lesbian people. We've decided just our cultural approaches to sweep those things under the carpet until they come screaming out from under the carpet. That's our sort of cultural approach. So I've seen it done that way. I've seen an attempt in the Episcopal Church recently where we created a space for women in the church to talk about the ways in which their dignity had been violated simply because they're female, and that was a great start of a conversation. It created an important and healthy space. More is necessary and we have our integrity Eucharist. Integrity is a group of folks here who are committed to giving voice, healing and hope to gay and lesbian people. When we have those spaces in our common life and people get a chance to talk about what it's been like to be gay and lesbian and in the church and the ways in which the church has affirmed them and also denied their dignity, we need to do that. It's hard work, and so I see that now among young people, when we're creating space for them to talk about the ways in which they feel like suicide is a great threat to them and they feel unsafe to be who they are, so they're choosing death rather than life. All of this is part of a package of restoring, which is to say, to people in their totality. You are made an image of God. You have inherent value, worth and dignity, and we're going to talk about what we need to talk about on the way to healing and restoration of everyone. That's easier said on a podcast in the morning than done, because I think the truth of the matter is that no one wants to attend to these jagged issues and missed opportunities and problems. Look, joseph in this story could have said hey look, I'm not dealing with this today, here's a loaf of bread, off you go. Or he could have said to his brothers the hell with you. Or he could have just never took the meeting Right. So, before we even get to Joseph's application of power as mercy, we ought to just talk about the fact that some of us need to find the courage just to attend to the jagged edges of the things that are happening in our families, of the things that are happening in the institutions and organizations we're part of, because indifference and right out denial helps evil on a daily basis. Right, wow, it helps. I mean, that's a perfect, that's a perfect hot house greenhouse for evil. Right to flourish, right Is that I'm just? Look, I don't care, it's not me. Or look, this is just too much, I don't have the capacity to handle this, I'm just going to let it pass, right? And this is how things become inertia. It becomes culture, it becomes status quo and there we are.Melissa:
Which strikes me as I Bishop, you are what I'd call an expert on leadership. You are a student, you are, you read, you do a whole heck of a lot to continue in your own leadership development and and and develop other leaders. So I think that constitutes the expert thing. I'm wondering how the rubber meets the road. You know we have this mission to restore all people to unity with God and one another. Like that's really what settling is right. It's settling the score, it's evening out the playing field. How do we do that on a daily basis?Bishop Wright:
Like Well, I don't know about. I don't know about leader, I don't know about expertise, but I'll tell you some of the things that I'm learning. I'm learning to confront, you know, these attitudes in myself. I think that's one of the biggest learnings is that you've got to really you've got to really find the courage to ask yourself what don't you see and what don't you want to see is number one. Number two, I think, if you happen to be convening meetings or you're a part and parcel of some organizational culture, you've got to say is whose voice is not represented here, right? And then I think you've got to ask yourself you know, what is the? How would you grade, right, your particular community or even family in terms of being able to get the elephant in the room, in the room, right? I mean, I think that's one of the things that was really instructive to me as I was learning was is that what I say, that the organizations that I'm ahead of, or part of that, they have a real facility for getting the elephant in the room, in the room? And I would say, you know, a vast majority of us, don't the vast majority of us think that really competent management is sort of keeping those issues at bay or dealing with them in private, rather than finding a way to give that work to the community. When we give that work to the community, what you say to the community is this is all of our work, right, we share responsibility for this. And I think that you know over time and you know a real sense of sincerity, of commitment to that work that begins to change the culture, right, and so so I would say that's where we can start. We can start with, you know, the name of this meditation is called settled. We can start with being settled on the notion that we're going to look in all the cracks and crevices, we're going to figure out what restoration means in its broadest, deepest, best sense. I don't think that heaven is going to have, you know, dark corners, right, I think, you know. I think, when we talk about heaven, what we're talking about is where everybody is fully themselves. There's no pain, no sighing, no sorrow, according to the Bible, right, and I think that's not just because we're in the near presence of God. I think it's we're in the near presence of one another in fullness, right, and that we are, we are. Wounds are there, like Jesus's wounds were post resurrection, but the wounds are not what we lead with. We lead with the resurrection piece.Melissa:
And we can't be full unless we're telling the truth. And we, we, you know we Forgiveness isn't forgetting. You know, we got, we got to remember that it's not.Bishop Wright:
I mean, and I think this is God has a notion of wholeness, that that, that we're just sort of I mean, look what was cutting edge for us a little while ago. It was, you know, de and I. I mean, we're just Well, how pedestrian we're just now, at the place where we're just we're starting to find some courage in pockets, and then, and then those pockets are having backlash, which, on a on a big grid. Conceptually, it makes sense that there will be backlash after so many years of denying the reality, right. And so we're on a continuum, we're on a process, and is it too slow for my money? It is right. And again, this is where the church and I don't mean the building, this is where the people of God can actually be leaven. You know, the Bible says leaven, leaven. If the whole lump, it's just that little drop of yeast that makes the whole thing rise. And if we're settled in the way that Joseph is settled towards restoration, then I think we can affect change. But we've got to be settled, and that's why these narratives are so important, because they stir up our courage.Melissa:
Indeed. Bishop, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today and thank you, listeners, for listening to four people. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review and we'll be back with you next week. You.