Sunday Sermon: Resolving Family Conflicts – How To Prevent Break-downs And Breakups – Part 2

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The family is more than a collection of people living together. It is a system in which each one is strongly connected by love and feelings of belonging. Thus, the family is vital to God, the church and society as a whole.

Happy family posing on the couch together at home in the living room

A house is simply the dwelling place of the family, but a home is the social family unit living together in harmony. It is the foundation of any community. Hence, the home is where the family members share problems and can experience peace in the midst of peril, and strength in the midst of the storms of life. It is where people can develop healthy relationships.

The Origin Of The Family
When did the family begin? Who originated it? These questions have baffled many for a long time. The answers can be found in the Master Manual for family relationships – the Bible. The family was established in the garden of Eden by God Himself. He created Adam and Eve, brought them together, blessed them, sanctioned their relationship and gave them the charge to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:27-28). God performed the first marriage, since He made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs and brought her to him (2:21-22). Eve was a gift from God to Adam: Adam said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me” (3:12 NKJV). Thus, God instituted the family.

In the original family there was harmony in the relationship. Based on the biblical account (2:21-25), the following factors can be observed:
God formed the family since the wife was given by God.
Adam identified with and totally accepted Eve, for he said she was “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”
God established a new family unit, which has priority over older earthly relationships: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.”
Adam and Eve were to have intimacy and unity: “they shall become one flesh.”
There were no hindrances, no masks, to open communication: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

The original family enjoyed love, peace, purity, power, provision for every need, and a conflict-free relationship. But, sadly, this didn’t last long!

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Conflicts In The Original Family System
A spiritual and physical darkness fell upon the pair when they succumbed to the subtleness of the serpent and disobeyed God, resulting in significant conflicts and consequences. By “conflict” I mean they then had incompatible desires, contradictory impulses and antagonistic disagreements leading to destructive behavior in their relationship. The conflict began with Eve listening to the serpent – Satan in disguise – and responding inaccurately to his questions.

The serpent questioned Eve as to what God had told her: “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die”’” (3:1-3). Because Eve didn’t listen carefully to what God had said, she was deceived.

As a result, Eve made three mistakes which later produced significant consequences. First, the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not the one the Bible says was in the “midst” of the garden: that was the location of the tree of life (2:9). Second, the LORD never told Adam and Eve “not to touch” the tree; on the contrary He asked them “to tend and keep [the garden]” (v.15). Third, the LORD had not said, “lest you die” but that “you shall surely die” (vv.15-17). Thus we see that the displacement of God for another and disobedience of God’s word were the beginnings of family conflicts.

There were many seeds of conflict sown within the family system of Adam and Eve that have continued to grow in all subsequent families. It is therefore vital to recognize these seeds of conflict as seen by the breakdown of the relationship between Adam and Eve. Satan tried to disconnect Adam and Eve from the power source of all happy relationships by sowing the seeds of deception and unbelief. He denied God’s word and substituted his own lies: “You will not die … you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:4-5). In other words, Satan boosted Eve’s ego to the point she felt she could be as God. So Satan’s tactic was to separate Adam and Eve from God who is the true source of relationships. Serious consequences result when we are separated from God.

Perhaps an example will help in understanding the problem of being separated from God. Last summer, before leaving home for work, I always turned on the power for the sprinkling system. The hot and humid days required that the lawn be watered frequently. However, after a few weeks I observed that the grass near the sprinklers was brown and dying. Puzzled, I examined one of the sprinkler heads. What a surprise: The sprinkler head was disconnected from the pipe! So, while the power was available, no water reached the grass. Apparently that disconnected sprinkler affected the water pressure to the other sprinkler heads as well.

Many relationships seem functional and healthy for a time, but later the evidence of not being connected to the primary source of love is visible to the family and to others in the community. Many families, deep in their hearts, experience a feeling of dryness and emptiness which often results in conflicts over even minor issues. However, conflicts can be resolved by removing the stumbling blocks and connecting oneself through faith to the source of all love and power – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Another major conflict with Adam and Eve was the breakdown of communication as seen by the fact that Eve did not consult Adam about the serpent’s enticements or offers. She took an independent position and sought immediate gratification without considering the consequences. She never realized that this failure to communicate would result in such a terrible impact on all future generations – one of the major problems in family relationships today.

A third major factor is flawed family vision. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (v.6). The problem was not with the fruit on the tree, but with the people on the ground! The three agencies of conflicts revealed here with Eve were described by the apostle John: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn. 2:16).

Eve’s eyes were so captivated with materialism and pride that she readily changed her priority from “husband” to “things.” Many relationships today have become laden with conflicts because of flawed vision that embraces materialism, pride, prestige and power. Moreover, for many the occupation of both parents in the work place has become of greater priority than the needs of the children and of stable family relationships.

Family cover-up is another major conflict displayed in the garden of Eden. It has become prevalent in our society today. Adam and Eve tried to cover up their guilt and shame: “They sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves coverings” (Gen. 3:7). But leaves don’t cover well and are only temporary at best. Once the leaves are dry, they simply fall off and expose what was covered. There are many families who are masking their relationships and trying to cover up their guilt instead of confessing it. But these repressed feelings sooner or later will show themselves in disruptive behavior and even abuse within the family system.

Adam and Eve were bound by the spirit of fear and “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (v.8). They remained in denial and hid themselves behind a tree. Many families deny their problems and are hiding behind the trees of employment, education, philosophy, religion and past family systems. They are afraid of being found out, afraid of rejection, afraid of failing and afraid of the future. Many are so occupied with what they don’t have that they are not even enjoying what they do have.

Lastly, blaming someone else is a further major factor of conflict. When Adam was called to account to God as to whether he had eaten forbidden fruit, he immediately blamed Eve by saying, “the woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (v.12). Adam refused to accept blame, insinuating that it was God’s fault for giving him the woman, and the woman’s fault for giving him the fruit. In like manner Eve shifted the blame to the serpent. She said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (3:13). Isn’t it true that even today many families are blaming God and each other for their conflicts instead of taking responsibility for their own behavior?

The original causes of conflicts include the displacement of God and disobedience to His Word; the breakdown in communication; the flawed family vision of materialism, pride and the “success” syndrome; and family cover-up of shame, guilt and the fear of being found out. Today, because of man’s fall, family relationships will experience conflicts; and conflict-resolution, not conflict-avoidance, is the best solution. Thus every effort should be made to resolve conflicts using a spiritual approach which changes one’s life and is displayed by a healthy family relationship.

The original source of conflicts dates back to the fall of man in the garden of Eden. Adam’s sin has affected not only his family but all subsequent family relationships. “Just as through one man, sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Therefore, we all possess the fallen, corrupted Adamic nature and are prone to internal and external conflicts.

Every individual is unique and valuable: “Fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). Adam and Eve were given names, identity and worth, for they were made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). After the fall, family conflicts occurred, but God sought out Adam and Eve. He did not abandon them. This implies that a person is valuable, can identify with what is right, be fruitful, resolve conflicts, and is irreplaceable and unique.1 Therefore, in spite of various perspectives, regardless of national origin, color, conduct, character or credentials, a person should be perceived as a person, not as a package; as someone, not as something; as a person to be loved, not as a thing to be used. Conflicts arise because of the inherited sinful nature of man, but God’s power is available to all who seek Him for help in resolving conflicts.

END NOTE
1. Diagones Allen, Love, Christian Romance, (Massachusetts: Cowley, 1987), 104.

By Emmanuel V. John

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