Family Dysfunction

By Pr. Rich Futrell

The family is the basic building block of society, where we experience and learn how to love, trust, and respect another. Yet, where do we first suffer pain, hurt, and betrayal? In the same location—our families! For a home, a place aglow with affection and security, likewise, troubles with defect and dysfunction. The Old Testament swarms with such examples. Try to find a biblical patriarch who isn’t awash in a family mess!

Consider Abraham, whose household roiled with jealousy and strife! Though God promised him a son, he and his wife supposed God “dilly-dallied” in fulfilling his promises. So, Sarah, Abraham’s wife, offered her servant Hagar to him as a concubine so he could become a father. A son, Ishmael, enters their life, and Sarah becomes jealous, creating much nasty rivalry. Stuck in a tangle she helped create, Sarah kept “nagging” Abraham for him to send Hagar and Ishmael away. For the sake of peace, God told Abraham to release them.

Well, God remained faithful, and Sarah bore a son, Isaac. Yet, examine Isaac’s sons, Esau and Jacob. Of the two, Isaac loved Esau more, a strong and skillful hunter. Now, Rebekah, their mother, favored Jacob, smooth of skin, who stayed home and helped her.

Later, as death approached and going blind, Isaac wished to bless and favor Esau before he died. Not so fast because Rebekah schemed with Jacob to deceive him. The rest isn’t pleasant, but I’ll leave you to read the story’s ending from Scripture.

Ponder Moses. After this birth, Moses’ parents, Amram and Jochebed, hid him from Pharaoh, who required the death of Hebrew baby boys. After growing into adulthood, Moses tries to protect a Hebrew slave from a beating, slaying the Egyptian and leaving him lifeless on the ground. Now a murderer, Moses flees into the desert to save his life.

At last, we come to David, Israel’s most renowned ruler—but his family! If you think yours is a royal mess, read David’s story. One of his sons, Ammon, rapes his half-sister, Tamar. Another son, Absalom, retaliates and kills him. Impatient, this same Absalom stages a coup to take the throne from David. Of course, David himself abuses his power, sleeping with Bathsheba (could she really tell the king “no”), and ensures her husband, Uriah, dies in battle.

Despite their countless flaws, God still used such “defective” individuals for His divine purposes to save humanity. In the coursings of human history, God made Israel into a holy nation through whom the Messiah entered our world to redeem us. Oh, Jesus’ family didn’t escape dysfunction either, who at one point supposed Him crazy (Mark 3:21, John 7:5)!

Throughout His ministry, Jesus reached out to sinners and outcasts—people whom most considered hopeless. No matter what they once did, He showed how God loved and valued them. (Those who relied on their righteousness for their standing with God received Jesus’ condemning word. For only those who realize their sinfulness recognize they need a Savior.)

The heart of God’s saving message thrums with this truth—God delights in us, not for something we achieved, but because of Jesus. “Gospel freedom” is what we call this because this frees us to serve God in this world without the dread of damning ourselves, regardless of family origins!

In Jesus, God finds us righteous and worthy, enabling you and me to approach our lives and doings, confident and secure. Fret not, fearful of wrecking something. So you can step forth and risk to love and help others in your life. Remember, Jesus ensures your eternal fate, so live and love, not sin, but being the beacon of Christ to another. Don’t forget the Old-Testament saints whom God used to birth the Messiah, Jesus. So, we aren’t without hope, and God can use us for His divine purposes. For this, we rejoice! Amen.