Dysfunctional Families Can Change
I’ve watched the development of television families in my lifetime. When I was very young, I watched Leave It to Beaver, which featured a loving mother, a wise and caring father, and two sons who were respectful of their parents. Later came The Brady Brunch. Two widowed parents married and blended their sons and daughters into a loving, somewhat hectic, family. The parents loved one another and provided thoughtful and firm direction to their children. Somewhat along the way on television began to change. Divorce or living together outside of marriage became the norm. Television children today regularly smart off to their dimwit parents as a part of the laugh line. Dysfunction in the family life is often seen as the norm. Some of you here today grew up in solid, godly homes for which you are, no doubt, exceedingly grateful. But many of you grew up in homes with deep problems and even spiritual chaos. I am glad that the Lord can heal our homes and our lives, just as he can heal our hearts. One of the greatest men in the Bible is a man names Joseph. He lived with great integrity and became a wonderful leader for us to emulate. But his early home was marred by dysfunction, jealously, and dangerous anger.
Genesis 37:2-8 NASB
These are the records of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms. Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, "Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf." Then his brothers said to him, "Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
The Choices We Make Will Affect Our Families (vv. 2-8) Family life is a fabulous gift from God, but we need to be reminded that the choices we make have an effect on our family members. My friend’s grandfather for example was not a believer in his early years. He drank heavily when he had the money to do so and caused great problems for his family. His subsequent conversion to Christ – and the positive changes which came out of that, including his sobriety – became a great blessing to his wife and children. Joseph’s parents: Marital difficulties (v. 2). Jacob had two wives who were rivals for his affection and attention. They magnified the problem by giving their servant girls to him for him to impregnate. This is a Jerry Springer Show episode waiting to happen! Favoritism (v. 3). Jacob clearly showed favoritism to Joseph in the presence of his brothers, symbolized by an ornate robe. This brought the family dysfunction to another level. Joseph’s brothers Unresolved anger (v. 4). Joseph’s brothers struggled to deal with a father who failed to show them the love they so deeply desired. The favoritism shown to Joseph led to anger which festered. Perhaps you have allowed anger to go unresolved in your life and family. Unresolved anger builds, and it clouds our thinking. Jealously (vv. 5-8). Seeing God’s work in the life of Joseph only intensified the feelings of jealously. Verse 7 even gets to that awful and powerful word hate. Unresolved jealously can quickly turn to hatred.
Is there Anger/Jealously/Favoritism within your family?
Is there Anger/Jealously/Favoritism within your family?
Genesis 37:17-20 NASB
Then the man said, "They have moved from here; for I heard them say, 'Let us go to Dothan.'" So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. They said to one another, "Here comes this dreamer! Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, 'A wild beast devoured him.' Then let us see what will become of his dreams!"
Genesis 37:25-28 NASB
Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, "What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh." And his brothers listened to him. Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.
II. Unresolved Conflict will Damage our Relationships (vv. 17b-20, 25-28) The story takes a most unpleasant turn. The brewing conflict remains unresolved and the animosity builds. Finally, the brothers plot to kill Joseph. They change the plan to selling their brother into slavery, but what could they have done? They could have chosen to love. One of the most important choices a family member makes is to love. The Bible tells husbands to “love your wise, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Love is a choice, the Bible teaches, and not just an emotion that can’t be changed. We choose to love, or we choose not to love. You can love others regardless of whether they love you in return. They could have chosen to forgive. Just as love is a choice, forgiveness is also a choice. You can hold on to the wrongs done to you, let them build and fester, or you can choose to forgive. When you choose to forgive, you free yourself from the bondage of bitterness and hatred. Forgiveness is not saying that you like the fact that you were wronged. It says that you choose not to live under the bondage of unforgiveness, but instead choose the freedom that comes with forgiving those who have wronged you.
Love / Forgiveness
Are you showing the love of God and forgiveness to those in your family?
Genesis 37:36 NASB
Meanwhile, the Midianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh's officer, the captain of the bodyguard.
God Can Bring Good Out of Our Bad Situations (v. 36) Joseph experienced dysfunctional parenting and sibling betrayal. It is a terrible story of family life gone wrong. Yet God used it for good. Eventually, God would use Joseph’s situation in Egypt to provide deliverance for his entire family.
Many of you have been on the receiving end of hurt, betrayal, and unresolved conflict from your own family background. You cannot change your past. You can’t undo the wrongs – but you can allow God to bring good out of the bad. God can use you to help others who are going through the same sorts of situations you have gone through. If you are divorced or are in the process of getting one, seek out a divorce care program filled with wounded hearts. The greatest sources of healing help for those how are divorced often comes from others who have been wounded themselves. Members will find comfort that comes from the Lord and from His forgiveness, and now they can pass that healing love on to others. Some of you are here who need to choose to love. Your marriage is damaged and you love has grown cold. Will you continue yourself today to love as Christ loves you? You can’t force your spouse to love, but you can commit to love him or her as Christ loves you. Some of you need to choose to forgive. Forgiveness can only come by the grace and power of the Lord. But knowing that Christ forgives you, you can choose to live with an attitude of forgiveness. And with that choice will come renewed freedom from the dysfunction of your past, and an opportunity to grow to become the person God wants you to be.