BIAY – Genesis 40 – Forgotten


A few weeks ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu passed away.  After his death, I wondered who would take up his mantle for working for justice and human rights and equality in the ways that he did.  One of the people I thought of is Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.   While EJI works in many areas of criminal justice reform and the work of racial equality, it started with the necessary work of helping to represent and set free those who were “illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons.” (Source)  Many first heard of Mr Stevenson and the work of EJI through the book and later movie, Just Mercy, which details several of their early cases and the people they helped to set free.  

I thought of this work as I read Genesis 40:23 which says, “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”  

Joseph was a man who was imprisoned on a false charge and essentially forgotten.  The false charge against him landed him in prison for years before he was remembered after the Pharaoh had several disturbing dreams.  But if it wasn’t for those dreams, the cupbearer might not have remembered him at all.  

One of the questions that comes up with stories like this is how these stories relate to life today.  This part of the Joseph story reminds us that the reality of people being unjustly imprisoned is still very real today.  This is a reality especially for people of color who are an inordinate percentage at all levels of the prison system.  So, the cupbearer’s statement is apropos for today – yet we do not remember those unjustly imprisoned but have forgotten them.  

I am grateful for the work of Bryan Stevenson, of EJI, and of the many many others who are doing this vital work and am challenged of how I work to make the change necessary to reform these systems.  

Lord, help us to remember those who are unjustly accused, those unfairly sentenced, those illegally convicted, and those who are abused in the prison system.  May we never forget them and keep them on our hearts and minds.  May we work to reform systems that continue these injustices and may you strengthen those working to set the captives free as you proclaimed in the synagogue in Nazareth.  Amen.  

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