Sometimes our efforts at reconciliation are shallow. Our kids sometimes try to say they are sorry to one another, and the “I’m sorry” that we hear sounds something kind of like “I don’t like you at all.” I am sure you know what I mean.
True reconciliation in our relationships requires the rebuilding of trust. And trust takes time. Joseph could have revealed himself to his brothers in an instant, at the first moment, and they probably would have begged him for mercy and forgiveness – and grain. And Joseph always would have wondered how sincere those brothers were.
And so Joseph hatched a plan. He wanted to see who these brothers of his had become. What did they think of their brotherhood? How did they treat one another? Would they indeed come back for Simeon, or would they tell their father that he’d simply lost another son? Joseph wanted to strip them of all insincerity and to see what they were made of.
True reconciliation takes time and frequent interaction between those who have been hurt. Often, we will find that one conversation does not do the trick. Helpful things might be said in one conversation, and it might be a good start, but reconciliation between brothers and sisters is a process of rebuilding trust and affection with one another.
Forgiveness is the same way. It is not accomplished in an instant. Old feelings do not die easily. Again and again, we must come back to the issue, at least in our minds, and deal with it.
And this back-and-forth travel of the brothers, the waiting, the renewed conversations, the carrying through with special requests and demands – all of this was part of the process of reconciliation, of building trust, of seeing the other in clarity (even if it was rather one-sided because the brothers had no idea at this point who Joseph was).
And so you might think about your brothers and sisters in Christ and the rubs that sometimes occur in those relationships. If there are no rubs, you aren’t close enough to them yet! Think about how the reconciliation process is going. What more do you need to do? How can the insincerity be stripped away? How can you see one another clearly? How can you rebuild trust?