August 27th, 2012 at 9:43 am
I have been thinking lately about all the information I have heard in recent years concerning our immigration situation. If you are like me, it is hard to know who is telling the truth and who is disseminating information that has not been verified. Before trying to sort out those facts, I thought I would look into some of my favorite Bible passages and see if I could learn anything about working with people of other cultures. In the next few postings we will look at what we can learn from these biblical accounts. Today, let’s start with Joseph.
Genesis 39-41 tells the story of Joseph. We know how he was his father’s favorite, resented by his brothers, sold to Egyptians and became a slave to Potipher. It was Potipher’s wife who then desired him, and when he refused her, she accused him of attacking her. He was easy prey. Who would believe him? A foreign slave against an officials wife? She even articulates that feeling when she identifies him as “that foreigner”(RSV)
So, he was taken directly to prison, no questions asked. There he befriended the Pharaoh’s cupbearer (butler) and baker and he interpreted their dreams for them. When the cupbearer was released, Joseph asked him to remember him when he goes back to serve the king. For two years, it seems he did not. Until one day, the Pharaoh had a dream that no one is able to interpret. At that point, the cupbearer’s mind was jogged and he remembered Joseph. We know the rest of the story, and it is a pretty great story at that. Joseph interpreted the dream and became the overseer of the massive preparation and distribution project for the next 14 years. He reconciled with his brothers and was able to once again see his father. Egypt was saved from massive starvation and even those form neighboring countries were beneficiaries of Joseph’s leadership.
What made the difference? What turned Joseph’s future around and the future of that entire region? It was a simple thing really. A voice. A person who was willing to speak up and say something good about a foreigner. In this case, a foreigner who was in jail no less!
Unfortunately we live in the world of Potipher’s wife. Many are quick to blame foreign-born persons rather than see their own responsibility in a situation. If you listen to some media pendants, you hear a lot of blaming of “foreigners” for all the ills in our country. (Often all persons who look different get painted with the same brush so refugee, immigrant, exchange/foreign student, undocumented are not distinguished in their arguments.) Emotions are easily stirred around these issues but we, the community of faith, must seek the truth.
So I am asking the question, “Can we at least be the cupbearer?” Can we tell the truth about what we know of our immigrant and international populations? Can we tell how hard they work – often with two and three jobs, how much they sacrifice so their children can have better lives? Can we correct the stereotypes and the misinformation we hear?
Can we stand up, speak up and lift up those around us who need a voice, our voice, in order that all of us can become all that God has created us to be?
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