God’s Dysfunctional Families

“While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” Genesis 4:8

It’s pretty easy to find biblical principles applying to marriage and family life. Ephesians 5-6 highlight sacrificial love, mutual submission, trust, respect and nurture as foundations of a healthy family. These virtues are taught throughout the Scriptures.


Cain Smiting Abel, Sebastiano Ricci

It’s even easier to find stories of dysfunctional families. Consider these in Genesis:

  • Adam and Eve’s firstborn commits fratricide (Genesis 4:8).
  • Sarah’s gives her servant to Abraham to bear a surrogate child (Genesis 16). Sarah then abuses her in jealous anger, while Abraham remains passive.
  • Lot’s daughters seduce him into drunken incest (Genesis 19).
  • Isaac and Rebecca play favorites with their boys, creating a horrible sibling rivalry. (Genesis 25-27)
  • Laban smuggles Leah in as Jacob’s bride instead of Rachel. Jacob marries them both, causing a sibling rivalry where the sisters’ compete for children (Genesis 29-30).
  • Reuben sleeps with his father’s concubine, the mother of some of his brothers (Genesis 35).
  • Ten of Jacob’s sons sell brother Joseph into slavery, and lie about it to their father for 22 years (Genesis 37).

This isn’t too surprising, considering humanity is alienated from God and one another (Genesis 3). Put a group of selfish sinners in a home, sharing possessions, having different personalities and an unequal distribution of power and you have a recipe for dysfunction.

There’s redemptive potential in dysfunctional families. God wants us to become aware of our sinfulness and our inability to save ourselves. God wants us to believe in the message his son preached, and love one another.

The family is a good place for all of these to happen.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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1 Response to God’s Dysfunctional Families

  1. Pingback: God’s Dysfunctional Families « HUNTINGTOWN UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

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