How am I called to meet destruction with nonviolence?
Today’s reading from Genesis and the parable from the Gospel of Matthew both contain stories where murder is presented as the only way to get what the people want. Joseph’s brothers crave the attention and love that their father showers upon Joseph, so they hatch a plan to kill this “master dreamer.” In the parable, Jesus tells the story of the tenants who killed the servants and the master’s son because they want the master’s inheritance. These passages both reflect the human capacity to turn to control and domination to get what we want. Joseph’s brother, Reuben, offers another pathway of action.
I was intrigued with the character of Ruben. It is he alone who offers an alternative to the other brothers’ scheme to kill Joseph. Originally, the brothers want to kill Joseph and tell their father that the wild beasts devoured him. Reuben suggests that they throw Joseph into the dry cistern instead, with the plan that he (Reuben) would later rescue him. Although this plan was thwarted when the brothers realized they could profit by selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites, it strikes me that Reuben had the courage to stand up to his brothers and respond with a creative and nonviolent answer. This response, which ended up saving Joseph’s life, would in turn, save theirs in Genesis 42-45 when famine strikes Egypt.
Today’s readings can offer a challenge to us: In my own circle of friends, family, and work relationships, how might God be calling me to act with nonviolent and creative alternatives when faced with decisions that can bring more death than life?