Joseph and Pain (Part 4)

  The Joseph story, which takes up the last quarter of Genesis, is an extremely dialogue-rich narrative. As such, it resembles a two-party resolution process that surfaces a deep-seated conflict that is still ‘alive’ with electricity. The excess negative charge from the past needs some sort of outlet to be grounded so that true peace can return. […]

Joseph and Pain (Part 3)

  In our last entry we saw how Joseph had set the stage for his brothers to re-live the past pain of family loss. The only door to hope was bringing Benjamin back to Egypt, but the resulting separation from Jacob would surely create deeper agony for the family. The significant element, though, is that […]

Joseph and Pain (Part 2)

Joseph may seem like he was the only victim in the Genesis narrative, carrying all the family pain by himself. But he was not the only one who was in pain. Father Jacob fell into major depression due to the family loss, and the brothers, at varying degrees, carried guilt and shame for disrupting the relative […]

Joseph and Pain (Part 1)

One reason we know that Joseph carried deep emotional pain within him is the number of times he wept. Throughout this dramatic narrative at the end of Genesis we learn that Joseph wept profusely on seven occasions. Two of those times involved him going into a side room to have a cathartic cry in order […]

Philemon and Forgiveness (Part 5)

  I mentioned last time that this final posting on ‘Philemon and Forgiveness’ would (at last!) deal with the topic of forgiveness. One reason the word did not come into the first four postings is that the Greek word for forgiveness, which Paul most often used in his letters (charizomai), is not found in Philemon. […]

Philemon and Forgiveness (Part 4)

Interpersonal conflicts can often weigh people down with a sense of heaviness or intensity, leaving little room for levity or humor. Paul’s letter to Philemon, however, does have a lighthearted tone to it. At one point he makes a playful pun out of Onesimus’ name, which in Greek means ‘useful’. “Formerly he was useless to […]

Philemon and Forgiveness (Part 3)

We all know of situations where two family members reach a state of not being on speaking terms with each other. This is not only something we see in French drama movies; it can happen within any extended family system. Due to the escalation of an interpersonal conflict, one or both parties may choose to not […]

Philemon and Forgiveness (Part 2)

Over my years in restorative justice I have tracked the way certain words draw much attention as to whether they should be used or not. Take, for example, the word ‘reconciliation’. In the early days of the movement many programs within the Mennonite network in the USA were called Victim Offender Reconciliation Programs. The word […]

Philemon and Forgiveness (Part 1)

Paul’s letter to Philemon may be short, but it is a great example of a personal communication that addresses a single conflict. My guess is that Paul wrote other such letters that never resurfaced for possible canonization. Nearly all of Paul’s letters that did survive had multiple agendas, offering instruction and encouragement in lots of […]

Resolving Conflict in the Desert (Part 4)

Can you imagine shaking someone’s hand as a normal gesture that expresses human connection and commitment, yet in doing so making no eye contact? Shaking hands and avoiding eye contact simply do not go together. To not see the other person in the act of symbolic touch essentially nullifies the sincerity implicit in the handshake. […]