“If someone asks, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’”
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!”
Wounding in the house of friends may be the most painful of all wounds. Betrayal by near ones is more common than we care to admit. The deepest wounds can be born in proximity. It is here where welcome is profoundly tested. When I was a young girl there was a sitcom called Welcome Back, Kotter. One phrase in the intro music sticks with me still, “Welcome back to that same old place that you laughed about.” This musical refrain underlines the challenge of being reconciled to a place or community that you once belittled or from which you were estranged.
The reintegration into familia for those who willingly chose betrayal or estrangement is the most radical of welcomes. These enemies were once family but chose a different path. Welcome is an invitation to have a relationship to be born again. Bienvenidos—the Spanish word for welcome—is literally wishing a good arrival. Welcome of family turned adversary is more than just prayers for a good arrival; it is hopes of a good return trip. Welcomes are not just one-way trips, they are round-trips home. Grace is the vehicle for these trips. Grace is not absent memory but born out of new horizons.
“Come close to me, I am the brother who you sold into Egypt.” Talk about an ominous invitation. If I were Joseph’s brothers, I would be shaking in my sandals. There are histories that make welcomes frightening. The invitation to come close is not without dangers. The “one you sold into Egypt” ignites weighty memory of an evil done. The invitation gives the brothers pause. Is this a welcome or a trap? Yet, there is a word that offers hope: brother. “I am your brother Joseph” is quite an affirmation despite his brothers’ treacherous betrayal. Joseph still identifies as brother.
The welcome of brothers who chose to become enemies begins with calling them brothers anew. Despite your worst efforts I chose familia. This is not an act of weakness but a profound strength springing from a generous spirit. I am your brother is a renewed welcome to the broken homes and relationships torn asunder by jealousy, pride, and rage. Welcome is the antidote, the reversal, the decision to say, “God can make things new!”
- Have you ever been welcomed anew to a relationship you have damaged? What did this welcoming grace mean to you and how did it form you as a disciple?
- What spiritual disciplines enable you to hold adversaries accountable while reintegrating them into familia?