“When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” (Genesis 37:4)
As you know, Philadelphia is “the City of Brotherly Love.” As of July 20 of this year, 1,289 people had been shot in Philadelphia so far, which is up about 29% from this time last year. This number includes 268 people who were shot and killed, which is up about 44%. That includes 123 children (under the age of 18).
Philadelphia has a higher homicide rate than both Chicago and New York City. Philadelphia has had about 19 homicides for every 100,000 residents. Not much love in the city named love.
The story of Joseph begins with his brothers. And although “brother” is used 20 times in chapter 37, it isn’t for its “brotherly love.” It is a story of brothers who can’t get along. In the first 11 verses we’re told two times that his brothers hated him and one time that they were jealous of him.
Of course, that’s not a new theme for the Bible. Only 37 chapters in, we’re familiar with brothers who are jerks. Cain kills Abel, and those are the first brothers. There’s also Isaac and Ishmael. Joseph’s own father, Jacob, has serious issues with his own brother, Esau.
This isn’t just a story about Joseph, but Joseph and his brothers. In theological terms, we call them the patriarchs. They are the founding fathers of Israel. Why didn’t God pick a perfect family to start a nation?
God chose a dysfunctional family. He didn’t pick Jacob’s family because they stood out as wonderful moral examples. He chose a family that was deeply flawed. He chose a family like yours (no offense). He chose a family like mine.
There are no perfect families, and that’s one of the main points of Joseph’s story. Though Joseph’s story begins with dysfunction, betrayal, and heartbreak, it ends with redemption and restoration.
That’s the heart of the Gospel and God’s heart for our imperfect families, too.