Families – the good and the bad…

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family-reunions

Obadiah 1: 10 For the slaughter and violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. 11 On the day that you (Esau) stood aside, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you too were like one of them. 12 But you should not have gloated over your brother on the day of his misfortune; you should not have rejoiced over the people of Judah on the day of their ruin; you should not have boasted on the day of distress.

In the book of Genesis is the story of two brothers, Jacob and Esau. These two were continually at odds with one another – eventually settling in separate geographical regions. Jacob’s people thrived in the area which became known as Israel. Esau’s people thrived in the area which became known as Edom.

It would appear that, when Israel experienced defeat at the hands of the Babylonians, the people of Edom did not come to their aid, but participated in the looting of Israel:

1 On the day that you (Edom) stood aside, on the day that strangers carried off (Israel’s) wealth, and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you too were like one of them. 12 But you should not have gloated over your brother on the day of his misfortune…

Divisions within families can be incredibly durable – and not in a good way.

We’re in the thick of the holiday season right now, having just celebrated Thanksgiving and preparing for Christmas and New Year’s Day. And, because this is traditionally a time for families to gather, it’s a time when family conflicts are hard to ignore. Hence, this morning I find myself praying for families – including my own.

In case you were wondering, there is no such thing as a perfect family because families are comprised of imperfect people. And, perhaps because we have so much invested in one another, family conflicts can be particularly painful. It’s one reason why suicide rates tend to go way up during this time of year.

As I reflect on my own family, particularly my extended family, I see many broken places. There are scars from battles fought many years ago, battles that leave a permanent mark on the family. I recognize ways I have contributed to family struggles over the years – I’m no saint in all of this. And I remember how others have hurt me too.

Being part of a family is tricky business alright.

And yet, despite their flaws, families are incredibly important to us. They give us a sense of rootedness and identity. They give our lives a history and context. And, at their best, families give us abundant life and joy. Join me this morning in praying for families:

Heavenly Father, one of your greatest inventions is the human family. Human families serve us in so many important ways, we can hardly think of life without them. And yet, if we’re honest, we know families have problems. Including our own families. Give us grace to forgive those who have wronged us, and to ask forgiveness of those we have wronged. Restore our families, Lord, in ways only you can do. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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