10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
Gospel-centered relationships are relationships premised wholly upon mutual brokenness before a holy God. Only broken people will congregate at the foot of a cross where there is only one title we bear that elevates us, and that is the title Jesus gives us: brother. He said he is not ashamed to call us brothers, just as Joseph claimed his treacherous brothers who came to him begging for bread. He could have hidden behind his title and wielded his authority like a bludgeoning tool, punishing them, forcing them to submit and pay endlessly without ever revealing his identity as just one of them. He could have strung them along, keeping them in abject fear and terror of what he could do to them, lording it over them for as long as it felt advantageous to do so. If we hide behind any other temporary label in our relationships with one another, our chances of injuring and exploiting one another increase exponentially. Joseph already knew God as the redeeming God. He had seen God move and provide in ways he could never have orchestrated.
How could he lord his position over his brothers when God had specifically allowed him to endure all he had for his redemptive purposes? This is why we see Joseph weeping as he reveals himself as just a brother that God put in place for the blessing of his family… and through that family the world. He allowed himself to be vulnerable. Authority without vulnerability is a quick road to exploitation. Imagine if Joseph had prized his temporary role more than his brothers. He would have enjoyed the short-term pleasure of getting his brothers to say uncle, would have enjoyed watching them squirm. But he would have remained bereft of relationships that mattered and would at once be guilty of betraying his brothers too. The nation of Israel would have topped out at 72. His humility, his acknowledgment that he was just their brother, his removal of his temporal vestments of authority caused not only rejoicing amongst the immediate company but it caused people to flourish and multiply in the land of their sojourn, which in turn changed the world.
I don’t hold a lot of authority in my life. But the main one I do hold is that of mother. I need to ask myself how this truth applies to me. Do I hide behind my role as a parent with an “I told you so” attitude? If I’m being honest yes, I can all too easily avoid vulnerability with my kids by clinging first to my role of authority as opposed to my position before Jesus as the equal of my kids. It’s easy to think of our roles, especially as parents, as the most fundamental aspect of our relationships. But what is the most fundamental relationship I have with my children, fellow followers of Jesus? It is the only one that will last for all of eternity. I am their sister in the Lord and just as needful of grace, mercy, and forgiveness as they are.