Fractures happen. Fractures hurt. Fractures do not heal on their own. However, fractures can heal and health can be restored, and that is good news.
The book of Genesis, the Bible’s beginning, opens up with a flourishing community. God created all things good and declares humanity to be good. Chaos ensues, however, when Adam and Eve grasp after forbidden fruit. Cosmic fractures erupted with that first juicy bite: communion with God disrupted, conflict antagonized humanity, creation was cursed in relation to Adam, Eve and their posterity: Fractures happen.
The book of Genesis ends with a fractured community being restored. Joseph was given a robe of authority and a promise to rule. His brothers grasping after his glory threw him into a pit (attempted murder), then sold him into slavery, and told their father Jacob a lie. Community was torn apart: Fractures happen.
Fractures hurt. Joseph’s brothers continue to live unjust lives, threatening their father’s authority and well-being and slaying innocent lives. Joseph suffers at the hands of unjust rulers for decades. These examples are simply a continuation of the vicious cycle within humanity where hurt is met with hurt; justice meant an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Fractures hurt, and the hurt lingers.
The frightening part in reading these stories is in the realization that the stuff that sparked conflict and division in those relationships resides intimately in our own hearts. How do you respond to unjust treatment? Getting cut off by that idiot driver … misrepresented by a trusted friend … passed over for that promotion … reading that Facebook post aimed at shaming you … disgusted at what that politician spews out…
We would love if indeed fractures in relationships and community really were the fault of those people out there, those unjust systems and inequalities. And no doubt, there is blame enough to go around for conflict and schism on local as well as global scales. But the stories in Genesis unsettle the careful reader because in those characters and conflicts our own hearts are laid bare, and with shock we confess, “What? The source of that fracture lives in me, too?” Fractures don’t just happen.
Fractures, however, can heal. Genesis ends with community restored and flourishing. And that is good news. There is however, no simple seven-step program or easy fix to fractures in society at large, let alone our families or marriages, let alone our human heart.
But Joseph’s story offers a glimmer of hope, and it is this — restoration is won through self-sacrificing love.
Joseph had the authority to ruin his brothers. He had every right to gloat as they would grovel. They grasped after his glory and sought to end his life. Rather than vengeance, however, Joseph lived for decade after decade pursuing faithfulness to the God who created him, fidelity to the work set before him, and a life given for the good of those around him. His was a life of descending into the pit of unjust suffering — a type of dying — and then being raised up by God to serve in even greater measure. Then he descends and is raised up to serve again.
That is the pattern that Jesus Christ served as well. His dying was for the restoration of all humanity: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.” No shortcuts, only subtle self-examination, owning our junk, plainly confessing that we might walk in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. That is the mission of Jesus’ church. And that alone is the way of healing, for us, for our communities, for the world.
Chad Anderson is pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Kearney.