I come from a blended family: three sisters from my dad’s first marriage, four sisters and a brother from my mom’s first marriage, plus me and my brother. That makes 10 of us with an 18-year-age span.
As you can imagine, we are all very different and have pursued diverse paths. But that’s nothing compared to the diversity of the world’s largest blended family. I consider myself part of the family of God in Christ.
Polygamy, Adultery, Currency
Families are messy, and biblical families are no exception. Trace your family far enough back and you’re bound to find stories of trickery, adultery, polygamy, larceny, even murder. The Bible’s patriarchs had multiple wives and slept with their servants.
Spouses and siblings used each other, their servants, and their children to get what they wanted. Leah and Rachel gave their servants Bilhah and Zilpah to Jacob so that he could get them pregnant because they were competing for his love by trying to give him more sons.
That’s appalling. It was not in God’s design for men and women to treat each other this way, although he knew it would happen and he brought good out of evil (Genesis 50:20).
By the time we get to Jacob (we’re still in Genesis by the way), the legacy of sin was already thick and dark and sticky. Jacob ultimately had 13 sons plus one daughter (she features in a brutal story we won’t get into here) between those four women.
Each son born to this patriarch was acknowledged by him, but they didn’t all receive a blessing. “Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come. Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob, listen to Israel your father’” (Genesis 49:1-2).
His speech described the mixture of joy and heartbreak that split Israel into the generations to come as each man went his own way, leaving their earthly family and testing the patience of their Heavenly Father.
A Mixed Blessing
Genesis 49 alternates blessings with warnings, even predictions. Jacob names Reuben “my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power” (v.3).
Reuben is also “unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father's bed; then you defiled it — he went up to my couch!” Reuben slept with Jacob’s concubine and lost out on his father’s blessings.
Next are Simeon and Levi: “weapons of violence are their swords” (v.5). So far, this isn’t going well: are we surprised? Probably not. But “the scepter shall not depart from Judah,” fourth on this list.
Great, finally, a blessing. Zebulun “shall become a haven for ships.” That sounds okay too. The sons of the tribe of Zebulun “were considered brave risk-takers” later in Scripture. Gad will be raided (v.19). Naphtali is a “doe” (v.21).
Joseph will be fruitful (v.22). But “Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path” (v.17). You get the picture. Jacob’s kids were a mixed bunch, some growing wise or gentle; others going wild and causing destruction. And still, Jacob acknowledged all of them as his sons in spite of what they would become.
Not in the Genes
My siblings and I represent a mixture of personalities and abilities. One of my sisters is extremely organized and particular; a linear thinker and a natural leader. I’m her opposite: scatterbrained, a lateral (or perhaps wavy-lined) thinker who couldn’t organize a teddy-bear’s picnic.
We could never live together, but we love each other very much. If you go back through my family tree, there is much diversity, but we all have something in common: we’re no angels. Yet, God loves each one, even though not all of us want to know him as Father.
We inherited a history, but not a faith. In fact, no one does. One’s background doesn’t change how God feels about a person or determine what one chooses to do with the gospel. Joseph was sold into slavery — now there is a man who had every right to succumb to depression, anger, and to vindictiveness.
Instead, Joseph chose to obey the God who invites all of us into his larger family. If we accept the invitation, we automatically belong, and he does a unique work in each believer’s heart regardless. That work is often in defiance of extenuating relational circumstances.
The Fulcrum of Love
Joseph’s story ties in with the gospel in many ways, including certain little details which come to fruition later. Joseph married an Egyptian woman, which reminds us that the concept of “family” is not racial or geographical but spiritual.
We see the way Joseph behaved towards his brothers and maybe imagine the way Jesus would have done better. He wouldn’t have flaunted his status as Immanuel over his siblings.
I was the youngest (until my little brother was born), smothered in love like some princess as my older siblings tried to process grief, a new home, a new parent, plus the usual strains of puberty and school.
My mother’s husband had died. My father had divorced his wife. I don’t think my siblings were always happy to have a baby sister and all the babysitting duties I came with. Who could blame them?
I certainly don’t, I was a brat. If I was accidentally-on-purpose stabbed with a diaper pin once in a while, they clearly didn’t scar me for life (at least not anywhere I can see). I’m so grateful a slave trader wasn’t passing by one evening as my older brother and sisters complained about changing my diaper, again. And I really was a brat.
I am also grateful we are not tested for personal worthiness as sons and daughters based on our accomplishments, personalities, or our past. Our place in God’s family has been purchased forever by Christ.
If we are in Him, we are never found wanting. Christ is the fulcrum on which our acceptance pivots. We owe him all the glory, praise, and gratitude for being given the opportunity (an offer which many refuse) to become one of the Lord’s large-blended family.
When he knocks, we open the door, or we choose to ignore him. Nothing genetic about it. Just a simple decision.
Why This Makes Me Smile
A lot of people say, “I’m not good enough to be a Christian.” None of us is good enough for God. If you’re thinking right now about a glossy Christian in your life who seems to do everything right and smiles constantly, stop where you are.
Under the shiny exterior is a real human being who will never be able to save himself or herself. Only Christ can do that. In recent years, I’ve heard one friend say, “I thought you had it all together.”
She was surprised that I wrestled with sin, and I think a little bit comforted to discover that Christians are not expected to be perfect. But so many people I know are confused about the fact that we don’t have to earn our place in the heavenly family.
He wants us to submit to his direction. “We must not find our own way, for when we take the initiative we cease to follow” (Oswald Chambers). Joseph showed us what yielding to God looks like.
He behaved with integrity in Potiphar’s house, and then as a model prisoner when his integrity did not protect him from false accusations. Joseph didn’t grow bitter towards God or towards his family by nurturing a desire for revenge. He was confident in God’s plan.
He tells his siblings that their intentions to cause him harm were used by God for good (Genesis 50:20). It’s just possible that, by acting with integrity, we believers among unbelieving siblings, children, or spouses could become instruments of redemption while also being transformed into better and better ambassadors of Christ.
But don’t misread “yield” for crying “uncle.” God doesn’t plan to torture us until we do as he says. Suffering will come our way, but he’s not a manipulator or an abuser. Yielding to God is not about giving up life but giving up the hold sin and suffering have over us.
He gives us peace in exchange. Hard times hit every family. When they come into your life, God wants to be your Fortress and Redeemer.
This is not so that bad stuff stops (although that might happen), but so that the Holy Spirit will guide your heart away from a sinful response to circumstances, like selling your brother to a slave trader.
Last Thoughts on Family
Adoption into the family of God is 100%, immediate, with complete access to the fullness of Christ instantly. No proving yourself worthy or growing taller and stranger so you can finally fight back.
Your weakness becomes a strength as you yield to the Holy Spirit and allow him to act in strength. As for training, the Bible is your handbook. God’s character comes alive by his Word. But stop trying to be a good enough daughter or son.
He just wants you; he loves you unconditionally. If your earthly relatives let you down, remember that not even God’s children are “good.” But God’s Son, now seated at his right hand, loves you perfectly.
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Alessandro Biascioli
Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.