Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Norm of Dysfunction

In the day and age in which we live, dysfunctional families are more the norm that they are the exception.  In fact, most all of us don't have to go back far in our family history to identify some type of dysfunction that often leaves behind scars on the generations to follow.  But dysfunctional families are really nothing new and they can be found all throughout the Bible as well.

This Sunday at Gaylord E-Free Church we will begin our new series on the life of the Old Testament character, Joseph.  We will begin by seeing the dysfunctional family this Biblical hero comes from.  In fact, this just might be the most dysfunctional family you will find in all of Scripture.  If you doubt that, quit reading this blog posting right now and instead go read Genesis 25-35.  These 11 chapters will reveal to you a dysfunctional family that will leave your head spinning as you wonder how God could ever use such a messed up group of people.

The problem with dysfunction is that in most cases it gets repeated throughout the generations.  Let's take Joseph's father, Jacob, as an example.  Part of the dysfunction in Jacob's family was that of sibling rivalry.  This rivalry did not begin as teenagers or ever as small children.  This rivalry actually started in the womb.  Jacob was a fraternal twin of Esau.  Their struggle actually began while they were in their mother's womb and was evidenced clearly at the very time of their delivery.  Again, if you doubt that fact, read Genesis 25-35.

To make matters worse, Jacob's parents made the horrific mistake of throwing gasoline on the hot and glowing embers of Jacob's rivalry with Esau.  The Bible tells us that their father loved Esau more than he loved Jacob while their mother loved Jacob more than she loved Esau.  And what's worse is that these parents demonstrated this partiality in very visible ways.

Unfortunately, though we hate the mistakes and weaknesses of our parents that bring about such dysfunction, we tend to repeat those same mistakes.  Children of alcoholics hate the fact that their parents are alcoholics.  Yet, statistics tell us that children of alcoholics are much more likely to become alcoholics then are children of parents who do not drink.  In most cases, children of divorced parents hate the fact that their parents have split up causing them to be shipped back and forth between two homes and two families.  Yet, statistics tell us that children of divorced parents score much lower on marital adjustment tests than children of parents who did not divorce.

The same thing happened to Jacob.  I'm sure he hated the fact that his parents' favoritism poured gasoline on he and Esau's rivalry, but Jacob ended up pouring gasoline on his family in the same way.  First, he did so with his own wives.  That's right - Jacob had two wives - Rachel and Leah.  To complicate things even more, these two wives were also sisters.  I guess the only silver lining for Jacob was that he still only had one mother-in-law.

It's a wild story how he ended up with these two sisters as his brides and, again, it's worth reading Genesis 25-35 to see the whole story.  This produced quite the rivalry between these two brides.  And what did Jacob do?  He poured gasoline on the fire.  The Bible is very clear in telling us that Jacob loved Rachel more than he loved Leah - and he showed it.  The same dysfunction that Jacob's dad wounded him with now becomes the same dysfunction through which Jacob hurts his family.

And what parents do in moderation, children often do in excess.  Such was the case with Jacob.  Not only did he pour the gasoline of partiality on the sibling rivalry that was already burning between his wives, he did the same thing to his own sons.  Jacob ends up with 12 sons (by 4 different mothers - you just have to read Genesis 25-35 to see this multiplication of dysfunction).  But as the opening chapter of the life of Joseph unfolds we find that Jacob loved Joseph more than his others sons and he showed it.  Unfortunately, the gasoline he poured on this fire caused on explosion that would result in Joseph spending the next 13 years of his live as a Egyptian slave and an Egyptian prisoner while Jacob is told that his beloved son was dead.

But somehow from this mess, God uses Joseph in an amazing way.  Joseph ultimately becomes the Prince of Egypt who saves all of the land from a deadly extended famine while, next to Jesus, becoming the greatest example of the power of forgiveness you will find in all of Scripture.  Joseph's family was filled with extreme dysfunction, but Joseph still emerges as a true spiritual hero.

Perhaps you are carrying the scars of decades of family dysfunction.  Let Joseph be an example to provide you with hope.  Your past history of family dysfunction does not have to destine you to a future of family failure.  The truth is that while you can do very little about your ancestors, you can influence your descendants greatly!

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