In my last post I delved into the gory details of the complete and utter dysfunction of Jacob’s family: deceit, jealousy, lust, unrequited love, manipulation, preferential treatment, twisted use of sex – this family had it all. I talk with all too many people from Christian families who are deeply ashamed of the dysfunction in their homes.
Modern American Christian culture is a nuclear-family centric culture. Just turn on your local Christian radio and you’ll find filtering through the airwaves not so much the gospel as “family friendly” or “positive and uplifting for the whole family” fare. Christian politicking, likewise, is focused on “family values” and “pro-family legislation.” The biggest downfall of Christian leaders (both political and otherwise) usually has to do with something they’ve done that has broken the trust of their family (adultery, sexual sin, etc). Many local churches try to draw people through their doors with their children’s programs or family-themed messages. The merits of such politics and programming aside, the underlying message in American evangelicalism is clear: our relationship with God is inextricably intertwined with and dependent on the health of our relationship with our nuclear family. If your family isn’t smiling on Sunday, God’s not smiling at you.
It is not surprising, then, that so many families hide the deep dysfunction in their families and are ashamed with such dysfunction accidentally leaks out. My wife is a counselor and there have been many families we’ve dealt with who have refused to attend counseling sessions when approached by friends in the church or church leadership. Why? 1) Because they think if they keep it hidden it doesn’t exist. And 2) because they think their problems are unique.
What a sad state of affairs! These problems aren’t unique. To be more confrontational about what I said in my previous post, I challenge you to find me one functional family in the Bible! And yet God’s mercy and love and plan is in full force at every point. God isn’t a messy God, but he sure isn’t afraid to pull his people out of the mess. In fact, he seems to relish it. We all are born into dysfunctional families and we all create dysfunctional families. It’s what sinful people do. But our God is a God who can lavish your sinful family with his love, grace, and compassion.