In the Lectionary

August 13, Ordinary 19A (Genesis 37:1–4, 12–28)

Is it possible to be completely and terribly wrong but not all bad?

In my “Sunday’s Coming” email for this week, I thought about what Jacob could have done differently to be a better parent. While being a good parent doesn’t guarantee that siblings won’t feel how they feel or make their own choices, being a parent who manipulates emotions and relationships between children definitely doesn’t lead to anything productive or healing.

But I’m also taken with the latter segment of this text and the path to Joseph’s enslavement. Seeing Joseph come to them from afar (presumably easily recognized in the couture robe he is known for), the brothers plot to kill him. The murderous impulse seems so drastic a response—it just doesn’t seem realistic that it’s coming out of nowhere. Now, I am not advocating for murder in any situation, but this story challenges me differently when I read it through the lens of complex familial ties and complicated human beings figuring out their own trauma and lives. Is it possible for these brothers to be completely and terribly wrong, without being all bad?

It’s a difficult question to ponder in so deeply entrenched a partisan-political church reality, beholden to cycles of misinformation that ratchet up division and bias precisely through the lack of nuance. But what if it isn’t so simple?