Dysfunctional family is a pretty common term. Unfortunately, dysfunction is almost the new normal. I had the blessing of growing up in a well functioning family where everyone knew they were loved and cared for. Many cannot say this. When I look back on my spiritual heritage, I realize just how dysfunctional our forefathers (and mothers) were. Dysfunction is born of selfishness. From the very beginning, the first couple blew it in the biggest way possible. Adam stood by and watched his wife as she was deceived by the serpent. Adam had one job as a husband, to protect his wife and keep her holy. Adam, having no sin nature, chose self over others, in his case, Eve and God. Jesus is the ultimate example of selfless giving leading to blessing, not only for self, but others as well. Our ultimate choice is to live in Adam and serve self or live in Christ and serve others. Living in Adam will promote more dysfunction, negatively impacting the lives of those we love. Living in Christ will break the cycle, leading to a fulfilled life, while protecting others from the collateral damage of our selfish choices.
SELFISHNESS BEGETS DYSFUNCTION
As noted earlier, Adam was created sans a sin nature, yet he selfishly chose to see what would happen if his wife ate the forbidden fruit, eventually joining her in her great folly. Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. We get a pretty clear picture from this passage, Adam was there with her. Adam stood and watched as the serpent seduced his wife with forbidden fruit and then, when he saw that she did not immediately drop dead after eating, ate himself. A very interesting commentary in realizing the first dysfunctional family was the first family ever. Eve was selfish and chose to obey the serpent rather than God and her husband, in order to gain knowledge and power. Adam was selfish as he was willing to stand by and watch his wife die as she ate the forbidden fruit, and Adam was selfish when he chose to partake for knowledge and power, as well. Selfishness begets dysfunction.
DYSFUNCTION BEGETS DYSFUNCTION
Adam and Eve had many children, but the first we are introduced to are Cain and Abel. We all know the story, Cain killed Abel in a fit of rage. Cain was unable to measure up to the standard of obedience exhibited by Abel, so he killed him. (I dissected this story in a post you can read HERE) Rather than conform to God's standard, he attempted to destroy the evidence of his disobedience. Genesis 3 reveals the selfishness of Adam and Eve which led to the fall of man. Adam and Eve passed their newly acquired sin nature on to their children (and us!) and apparently their selfish impulsiveness to Cain. The same selfish dysfunction found in Adam and Eve was found in their offspring.
DYSFUNCTION CAN LEAD TO GENERATIONAL CURSES
When we examine the account of Noah, we find he is called righteous in all his generations: Genesis 6:9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. I am convinced that this passage is referring to more than Noah's obedience to God, but the purity of his bloodline. (for a discussion on this topic click HERE) Yet, with all of Noah's righteousness and purity, he quickly sinned after disembarking the Ark, to disastrous results for one of his sons. Genesis 9:19-25 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread. And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. Ham acted shamefully, but Noah got drunk and inadvertently placed his son in a precarious position. Any child who has grown up with a drunken parent can certainly relate to this story. While each person is responsible for poor behavior, parents bear some responsibility for situations their sin creates for their children.
DYSFUNCTION LEADS TO BROKEN FAMILIES
David, the most beloved king in Israel's history failed miserably as a parent. When his son Ammon raped half sister Tamar, David failed to respond. In David's failure, Tamar's full blooded brother, Absalom, killed Ammon. David's handling of this vengeance killing was lacking, to say the least, and led to a violent attempted coup by his disgruntled son Absalom. The coup ended in Absalom's death. David's dysfunctional parenting led directly to the death of two of his sons. Selfish and lazy behavior is not without ripples that go out and effect the people closest to us.
DYSFUNCTION CAN END AT THE CROSS
Though many lives are negatively impacted by the dysfunction of parents, spouses and those who are entrusted with the best interests of others, the chain reaction of dysfunction begetting dysfunction can be broken by the power of God's Spirit, through a relationship with Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. This is a pretty good list of dysfunctional and destructive behavior. The good news is in the last part of the passage: And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. The cycle of sin and selfishness is broken by the power of Christ. Not only is the destructive behavior of believers changed by the power of the Spirit, but the negative impact of behaviors, exhibited by others, can also be reversed by the power of Jesus' blood.
We are not the sum total of our experiences or behavior. Some reading this are victims of the dysfunction of others, there is hope, love and acceptance for you in Christ. Some reading this are perpetrators of dysfunction that has impacted others, there is forgiveness and hope for you in Christ. Some reading this are victims of dysfunction who have found themselves perpetrating the same dysfunctional behavior on others, there is hope, love, acceptance, forgiveness and the power to break the cycle of destructive behavior for you.
For those, like myself, who have had the blessing of a loving and nurturing home, our responsibility is to love others through things we have not endured. We are to model love and nurture as part of discipleship. This also becomes the role of those who have overcome dysfunction and abuse through the power of Christ.
God is good, His design is for us to be cared for by those He has entrusted us to. Sin, selfishness and God's gift of free often opposes God's design, causing people to suffer, sometimes unimaginable abuse. This suffering does not negate God's love, it demonstrates the very need for it.