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!


Markers for Missionaries

Turn right at the traffic lights and follow the road until you reach the petrol station on your right hand side. Once you see the signs for the primary school take the next left and we’re beside the house with the red door. As we pass each landmark on the journey to a new place we are encouraged that we’re on the right track. There’s something very reassuring about seeing the petrol station, the primary school or the red door that we’ve been told about before hand. While we haven’t arrived, these markers help us to keep going. To not give up or assume that we’re lost. Jesus prepares His disciples for their journey to His Father’s house and highlights some things to look out for on the way.

I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves … men will deliver you over to courts and flog you in the synagogues .. Brother will deliver brother over to death .. When they persecute you in one town flee to another.  [Matthew 10:16ff]

puppetsWhen people are critical of us or when trouble strikes our lives, we quickly assume that we’ve gone off track. That it should not be this way. We default to ‘entitlement mode’ and get angry at God, He’s let us down. We deserve better. Alternatively, we tie ourselves in knots of guilt assuming that God is punishing us for something. ‘If I was more holy than I am right now then maybe I wouldn’t have to put up with this horrible situation in my life?’

The liberating truth is that every trouble, hard time and persecution we face as Christians is a marker that we are on the right path and a reminder that God is faithful. The Bible repeatedly reveals God’s people enduring opposition. Doing the right thing and getting the wrong result is a feature of life for the people God. Moses went to Pharaoh and ended up being pursued by the Egyptians, Daniel prayed and ended up in a lions den, Joseph ran from sexual temptation and ended up in jail. These characters hint at the only truly Innocent One who suffered on the cross even though He was without sin. Jesus says to His disciples “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.” [Matthew 10:24] In our eagerness to ‘be the hands and feet of Jesus’ we’ve got to remember what happened to those hands and feet!

When God seems to be killing us, He’s actually saving us. [Tim Keller – Counterfeit Gods]

It’s incredibly freeing to understand that Jesus never promised His disciples their ‘best life now.’ The only way that life on earth will be your best life is, if you never experience the perfection of heaven. He said we are sheep among wolves! In the book of Acts, we get the name of a place that we need to journey through before we reach this best life..

continue in the faith, … through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. [Acts 14:22]

You haven’t arrived – keep going!