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Family Feud

Bill and Caleb in Israel

Moments of clarity are great things in life. I had one of those this morning as I read what I thought would be an uninteresting portion of the Bible. 1 Chronicles 1 is nothing more than a list of people who were born to other people and most of the names I don’t recognize. As I read, however, the realization that we are all related came into focus. If all records had been preserved throughout history, we could all trace our lineage back to Noah. We are all relatives! This is both good news and bad news. Nobody comes to your rescue like family but nobody fights like family either. When family members get angry, bitter and jealous with each other, it can get very ugly.
In fact, human history is all about family that couldn’t get along. I experienced an amusing incident when I was in Israel three years ago. Israel was established by God’s call to Abraham, a descendant of Shem. They are considered one of the Semitic nations because they derive from Shem. We had finished our tour of Israel and crossed the border to Egypt to see the Sinai dessert and the pyramids in Cairo. Egypt was a son of Ham, Shem’s brother. This makes the Israelites and the Egyptians relatives and you would think they would have some sort of affection for each other.
I was curious so I decided to keep a 20 shekel bill from Israel. After we arrived in Egypt I stopped by a bank to see if they would trade the shekels for Egyptian pounds. I handed over the bill and asked, “Can you exchange this for me?” The man behind the counter took the Israeli bill and sneered at the front. He turned the bill over while giving a look of contempt at the back. He then handed the bill back to me and responded, “Of course not!”
Today it makes a little more sense to me why we have so much trouble in our families. Our family relationships are the most intense, emotionally charged relationships on earth. We become irritatingly familiar with family members. We become threatened by the accomplishments of family members because they use resources that would otherwise be available to us. We expect more than we should from family members in terms of encouragement, kind words, support and financial assistance. Consequently, disappointment is as much a part of family as love and compassion. When this disappointment turns selfish, desperate or evil, the small pains of life turn into broken relationships. Considering also that we are in a spiritual battle, the enemy of our souls has undoubtedly targeted families as one of his main sources of disruption throughout history.
The implication for me was clear this morning. I need to do what I can when I can to foster my family relationships. Despite the hurt and disappointment, despite the difficulties, despite the deficiencies that some people apparently will never address, I need to do what I can to keep the horrendous acts of families out of my personal history. I know I need to do this in a healthy way so I maintain self-respect but the fact that all troubles on earth are ultimately family troubles has got my attention today.

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2 Responses

  1. I sympathize with this article all too well. My dilemma is once you forgive and move on, is it wrong to not desire to be close with that family member again?

    • This is a normal response Josh and one we frequently wrestle with. In my own experience I have looked for the balance between reestablishing contact and keeping the kind of boundaries that help me, my wife and kids grow.

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