In April of 2015, Salahuddin Jitmoud was making one of his last deliveries for the night as a Pizza Hut delivery driver when he was stabbed to death and robbed at an apartment complex in Lexington, Kentucky. His body was later found lying in the breezeway of the complex. Eventually, a suspect, Trey Relford, was caught, tried and convicted for the crime of killing Salahuddin. Trey Relford was then sentenced to 31 years for his crime.
The father of Salahuddin, Abdul-Munim Sombat Jitmoud, then did something that no one expected when, during his victim impact statement, he offered forgiveness to the man who stabbed his son to death.
Mr. Jitmoud is a Muslim. He believes that Islam teaches Allah does not forgive a person until that person has been forgiven by those he has offended. So, in court, he offered forgiveness to the murderer of his son.
And a hug.
Which brought the courtroom, including the judge, to tears.
Would we be able to forgive someone for killing a loved one?
Those are tough questions for us to answer.
And an even harder action to pursue if that was what happened to us.
In this week’s readings, the Old Testament reading from Genesis lets us in on more of the story of Joseph. Joseph is the favorite son of Jacob because he was born to him in his old age. Jacob treats Joseph differently and gives him responsibilities of leadership.
Because of this, the (older) brothers of Joseph are not happy with him.
In defense of the older brothers,
it seems as though Joseph is a bit of a punk little brother.
He doesn’t see that his actions, his bragging, boasting and prophecy,
are not making life easier for him with his brothers.
So he is sold to travelers by his brothers.
Who then sell him to Potiphar.
Who then throws him in jail.
Where he sits for a bit.
And bails out two of his cellmates by interpreting their dreams.
Who promise to remember him after they are released.
Who forget about him.
Until Pharoah is having dreams that no one can interpret.
Then, one of Joseph’s cellmates finally remembers Joseph.
Joseph interprets Pharoah’s dreams and is given a place of leadership;
Second only to Pharoah.
There is a famine in the land,
but because of Joseph’s leadership, Egypt has plenty of food.
So people from all around the surrounding areas come to Egypt to buy food.
Including Joseph’s brothers.
The ones who sold him into slavery.
The ones who were going to leave him for dead.
The ones who took their father’s favorite son away from him.
And when Joseph has the power to enact revenge for their evil deeds,
He changes the script.
And says this to them,
“Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”
If I am being honest, I am not sure I could respond in this way.
I hope that I would.
It is my belief that I would.
But it is not about what I believe or hope that makes it so.
It is about what comes out of my heart at that moment.
How do I manifest that which I believe to be true?
Can I shake off being wronged?
Can I allow God to use something that has happened to me to be used for God’s glory and purposes?
Is my heart ready to receive these things?
Could I allow my heart to be shaped and molded by the will of God?
It is not an easy thing to get past a wrong.
Like I said yesterday, we like to be right.
(Actually, I said that I like to be right).
We now live in a country where “our rights” are paramount.
And so many are willing to assert their rights at the expense of others.
Which may not be the best thing.
Or for others.
But our “rights” are the most important thing.
Jesus’ interaction with the Canaanite woman certainly showed this.
Jesus’ mission was clear and He makes it clear to her.
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
This was His right.
He would have been right in ignoring her
and continuing the task in front of Him.
But God’s grace and God’s mercy are for all.
And even though phase one of Jesus’ ministry was to the Jewish people,
God’s heart is always for the “others”.
And so must ours if we seek to have the Father’s heart.
And follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Following Him in the way of life.
A life lived for others.
Seeking to bring Justice to all.
Can we look past wrongs
to see how God might be calling us to respond?
And build a community of followers seeking
to extend God’s grace and mercy and love?
Will we chose to be a part of this Conspiracy of Hope?
And the Way of Love?