I first met Kent way back in the ‘70’s when I was a new believer. Kent helped run a coffeehouse called The Jesus House on the northwest side of Cincinnati. It was the crib for ex-druggies, hippies, musicians and Jesus freaks. Kent spent several years at Willow Creek Community Church in operations with the job of turning literally thousands of volunteers into disciples. The last six years have been spent in Las Vegas at Canyon Ridge Christian Church overseeing spiritual formation. He’s rock-steady and serious about seeing people come into a full and deeply committed relationship with Jesus. He’s one of the good guys…and I’m thrilled he’s on our staff now.
But if I might interject something in this closing segment of the series, it’s just how cool Joe’s comment to his brothers was when they feared his revenge for their cruelty some twenty years earlier. Their dad had just died and because of them Joe had missed a relationship with the father he loved. There was no way to ever restore that lost time. This could be his opportunity to scold them, to punish them, to simply get even for the unrecoverable loss they caused him.
But Joseph told them, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, to judge and punish you? As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. Indeed, I myself will take care of you and your families.” And he spoke very kindly to them, reassuring them. Genesis 50:19-21 (New Living Translation)
I want to live like that.
Many years ago I got stiffed in the Christian music business for a couple thousand dollars. For Anita and me, that was like a bazillion dollars (or Brazilian if you know the joke…) because we lived on practically nothing. I went through the “forgiveness routine” and thought I was done. But sometimes around others when the subject turned to the music industry, I would laugh and make a sarcastic comment how I had gotten the shaft. After years of doing that, God got through to me one day. I had given my spiel when He spoke to my heart and said, “That’s not forgiveness. I don’t care how funny your story is and how anonymous you keep it, you still haven’t forgiven them.” And, or course, He was right. What’s worse, the people involved in my story hadn’t even meant anything evil against me; they were just consumed in other things and I got missed.
Real forgiveness involved me never mentioning the story again…because trust in God assumed that He was ultimately in charge and my provider. No one else.
Will I respond that way to people who meant real harm to me? Like any virtue, mercy begins with small wins. You don’t run a marathon overnight. It starts with a jog around the block.
Joe is my hero. Joe’s finish line is: "Been there, done it…got the technicolor t-shirt to prove it."