Modern [Dysfunctional] Family

Not long ago I watched an episode of Modern Family where Phil and Claire Dunphy are frantically trying to arrange the summer schedule for their kids. In an attempt to get some time together, they’re moving post it notes all over the place and negotiating with Imageeach of their three children. What becomes clear as the episode unfolds is that Phil and Claire are working behind the scenes to get rid of each other as well. It’s not time together they want, it’s ‘me time.’ Their idea of having a good summer involved not having the family about at all.

It was the same for Cain in Genesis 4, only his actions were more permanent! He killed Abel out of jealousy. God came looking for Abel and Cain replied ‘am I my brother’s keeper?’ You can hear the tone of this smart reply. Like a pupil replying to a teacher who’s inquiring about a friend who hasn’t turned up to class. ‘How should I know?’ Cain thinks he’s got God over a barrel with his quick witted response but God has every right to answer – ‘Yes! You are your brother’s keeper.’ We’re made in the image of God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the perfect family. There is perfect unity in this community. God makes man and woman in His own image to reflect Himself. The Bible begins with Him joining Adam and Eve together in marriage. The Bible ends with John’s vision of Jesus the bridegroom coming for His bride (the church). God has set marriage as the context in which all human history unfolds. Family unity and diversity matters to Him! We’re different but equally valuable. You may have heard that – ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ it’s garbage. We’re from God!

God sets the lonely in families [Psalm 68]

men-are-from-mars-women-are-from-venus-by-john-gray-phd-2010-01-15This is God’s design. So that every person would know love, protection and care. Husbands have specific responsibilities as do wives. Children are to honour their parents. Fathers are not to exasperate their children. Family is to be the arena in which God’s unity and diversity is displayed. Where His character is revealed. We don’t get too far into the story before the family unit dysfunctions. Adam and Eve ignore God’s design and blame each other for their rebellion. One son [Cain] kills their other son [Abel]. God’s good design is rejected in favour of some ‘me time.’ Where life is rid of the frustrations and pains that family have caused. Cain thinks ‘Finally, I get life the way I want it.’ This pattern is repeated in every family since. Maybe not to the extreme of murder but we all feel the frustration of competing desires. People close to us disappoint us and let us down. Marriage is always the coming together of two flawed, broken and sinful people. Our husband or wife will not complete us! [sorry Jerry Maguire] Our children or grandchildren will not complete us. None of our families perfectly reflect the unity and diversity of our Creator. Scripture says that according to God’s design – we all live in dysfunctional families.

‘We all like sheep have gone astray’ Isaiah 53:6

Our youngest son Robbie (he’s not two yet) regularly yells ‘this way daddy’ from the back seat of the car. He wants to tell me the way to go. He can get lost in a soft play area but he thinks he is capable of directing me on the motorway! Left to our own intellect and understanding – we get lost. We’re stubborn and far from where we should be. It’s true of all of us.Homer  Homer Simpson was right when he said of the Bible ‘everyone in this book is a mess, except this one guy.’ The really good news of the gospel is that God our Father sends this One Guy. A brother unlike Cain (who looked only to his own interests). God sent His Son Jesus, our brother to deliver us. Not to take revenge on us but to take the punishment for us. Not to kill us but to die for us! He isn’t shouting ‘this way’ from the back seat but praying ‘Your way’ to His Father from the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus Christ steps into the mess of our dysfunctional world and rather than figuring out how to get some ‘me time’ sacrifices His life on the cross so that we can spend eternity with Him.

This is the Good News of the gospel for all of us in dysfunctional families. We’ve strayed from God’s design but He’s sent us a Deliverer!


It’s Time To Go

moving_vanA few years ago when we went to Boston we repeatedly checked out the Trip Advisor reviews of the place we were going to. I was able to pour over photos of the room and see where the hotel was situated in the city. I like to know where I’m going and have at least a rough idea of what is waiting for me there. The Genesis 12 account of Abram leaving his home town is the opposite of our trip to Boston. Abram had no idea where he was going. The Lord said to Abram..

Go from your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. [Genesis 12:1]

It’s really impressive that Abram goes. He obeys. He walks away from everything in order to walk with God. That’s often how our Christian life begins. With enthusiasm, adventure and trusting Him completely. The problem comes as we walk a bit and things start to get unpleasant. Abram encounters a famine and the prospect of entering Egypt with an attractive wife fills him with fear. He decides it’s time to take control of the situation back from God and tell a lie to save himself from harm.

say you are my sister that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake. [Genesis 12:13]

Abram’s trust wobbles and he thinks that he’d do a better job than God at saving himself. This is always our problem. We think we know best and are in a better position than God to look after ourselves. The good news of this story (andControl Button the entire Bible) is that even though Abram is unfaithful to God, God remains faithful to him. God’s promise to bless Abram is not tied up in how Abram performs. Abram becomes Abraham. His elderly wife becomes Sarah and they are ‘blessed’ with a son.  As his family tree unfolds there is another unlikely birth many years later as Mary (a virgin) becomes pregnant! Her Son also left His Father’s house and stepped out in obedience to God. Unlike Abram though, Jesus remained faithful. He proceeded where Abram wavered. Rather than grabbing hold of the steering wheel himself, Jesus surrendered completely to God’s way.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [Philippians 2:8]

I need to trust in Jesus ability to spare my life. His obedience at The Cross has guaranteed my future home and so I no longer need to manipulate the people around me in order to get the life I need. I’m free to bless them rather than bully them. I constantly feel the temptation to ‘save’ myself. To cover up my real identity in order to spare myself discomfort or embarrassment. We’re masters at self protection. Control freak kings. It’s why we filter our photos before posting them online, it’s why we love Sky+ and it’s what Build A Bear Workshop is promoting among kids. You can be in control. Save yourself from anything you don’t like.

departure-signChristian identity is about leaving home. Departure from every attempt to protect myself, save myself and create an identity for myself. Only by finding our home in Jesus will we be free from the need to control or manipulate the people (or situations) around us. We can bless people rather than bully them because in Jesus – we have everything we need.