Mat 10:34-39 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (35) For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. (36) And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (38) And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (39) Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Families are meant for our good. Husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, sister, brother – and extended family as well – grandparents, aunts and uncles, and so on. A home is a family, parents and their children – who love and care for one another. But there comes a time in our lives when we are to “leave father and mother” and cleave to a husband or wife and begin still another family.
I want to talk to you here about this matter of leaving and how, in a sinful and fallen world, the enemy and his servants often twist that which God intended for our good into an enslaving “Egypt” that the Lord set Israel free from.
On several occasions over the years, I have, as I have written about before, experienced both patriarchal and matriarchal kingdoms which demand to possess power and control over family members. A father, for example, demanding that his wife and children serve him – forever. Or a mother who twists love for children into an ownership which refuses to let them leave and be the person the Lord would have them be. And woe to anyone who encourages the target of this thing to leave.
I have probably shared with you before a striking example of this I experienced, but here it is again. A young man, still living at home, asked if he could meet with me and talk about his future. What he should do with his life. What career he should choose. I gladly met with him and in the course of our conversation I threw some ideas out for him to think about. One of those suggestions was that he look into joining the coast guard. He had shown interest in first responder type careers and we live in a place where the coast guard is one of those very vital agencies. He responded positively and thank me for the idea.
A few days later I learned that his father had thrown an angry fit when the son mentioned the coast guard idea. In fact, he was so angry that he set out to do damage to me and the ministry here. He went to other church members and told them it was terrible that I dared to suggest such a thing to his son. Why do you think he was so enraged? I can tell you. He was a father who demanded a lifetime of power and control. His children, no matter their age, were his property with the mission of serving him, and he would punish any step toward freedom they might evidence.
In another case, a parent exploded in anger over the Scripture verses quoted above. Though a professing Christian, she “owned” her children and they were never to leave “the family.” She pressured them and guilted and shamed them if they showed any sign of independence. Of course, her actions merely served to drive them away, but nevertheless the children still had to struggle with the sense of bondage that was instilled in them by her.
These scenarios are certain signs of familial abuse. God, in His design for our lives, has told us:
Gen 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Unless children, as they grow up, are allowed to “spread their wings” over time and eventually leave father and mother in order to pursue their own life and goals and relationships, God’s design is not being followed and no good will come of it. A parent who demands perpetual power and control over their sons and daughters, that power and control even extending to the next generation – the grandchildren and even great grandchildren – may disguise this lust as “love,” but it is anything but love. It is a selfish demand for self-glory at terrible expense to those enslaved by it.
These abusive family systems are often encouraged and enabled by “christian” individuals and entities. The family is promoted in such a way that it becomes an idol. The father, in a patriarchal system, is to be served by all and the dynamic is very similar in a matriarchal kingdom. Such families are promoted and put forward to us as models for us to emulate, being supposedly God’s design and will. But that is a lie.
I know many survivors of these abusive families who have been freed from this tyrrany. They all relate how it took a very long time for them to clearly see what an abusive father or mother was doing to them. In most cases the end result is a no-contact “relationship.” Once they drew firm boundaries, they became familial black sheep cast out of the flock. But they will tell you something else – the freedom is absolutely worth it.
This is so true in Patriarchal evangelical circles where the daughters are to be “hand-maidens” to their father until such time as He chooses to release them to a husband.
My stomach always turned at the “father-daughter” dances, weekends, dates, etc. that are so entrenched in this type of teaching.
The mother is supposed to get her daughter a new dress and jewelry and paint her nails and do her hair to present the “princess” to Daddy for their “date”…while Mom stays at home alone, working.
It is a dark evil that sets daughter against mother in a fight for the love of daddy….so gross.
I have seen women weep in jealousy and fear, wondering why they are feeling this way about their own daughters, when their feelings are normal. It is not normal for a husband to simply replace his wife with the younger, more “sweet” model of herself.
But she dare not say No to this placing of her daughters and herself into a harem by her husband; as he is the “head” of the family and deserves to be served for life by his wife and children.
Patriarchy has many sick teachings and damages many families.
Abusive family systems abound in the modern church, backed by the twisting of scripture.
There was something about these dates and dances that bothered me. I believe there is often good intent, but patriarchal thinking has caused much harm. Thank you for sharing.
Dear wingingit, mom stuck at home, in the same old shaggy duds…yep, when i first heard about these daDuh daughter dances, that’s the very first thing that jumped out at me. Big difference between pharIsee patriarchy and Godly patriarchy.
Father and daughter’s dance?
Not: with all the family (and friends), changing dancing partners among safe family members?
But: In a church-community, where going to a dancing would otherwise be seen as worldly or even plain evil – and seen as closely related to unwanted friendships with the opposite sex?
This is really close to letting the man dance and court with a younger model of his wife!
Of course, the wife has all the thoughts and feelings that go with such a situation.
Moreover, as sexual abuse occurs in all walks of society (including Chistians), this type of activity will at least facilitate an unwanted flavour in the father-daughter- relationship.
Where is Christ in all of this?
Oh my this post really hit home. It’s talking about me and my life! I gave up discussing anything with my father years ago because of how he would respond. I never felt safe enough to do so. He hated how I moved out of state at a young age but it was to get away. Recently I had to cut ties with him for good and go no-contact and I feel so relieved but have some sadness. I still deal with some guilt over it as he is getting old and doesn’t really have anyone in his life. This article is spot on and it took me decades to realize what was truly going on. Thank you for posting this as it brings things into more focus.
Great post Pastor Crippen.
While Genesis 2:24 shows God’s intention for children to leave their parents and cleave to their spouse, does being single alter that interpretation? I realize that this instruction is before the fall of Adam and reflects God’s desire for mankind. How it is to be applied to single adults, or does it not apply?
Any parent or set of parents that raises their children to not be fully functioning adults by the time they are 18, does them great wickedness. The problem in today’s culture is parents – even those claiming to be Christians – are not raising their children to be autonomous, whole people capable of making their way in the world.
They outsourced their parental responsibility to churches, private or public schools, media, and universities whose influence and agenda are not in the best interests of the child. There has been a concerted effort to minimize critical thinking skills of the last few generations by most, if not all of the institutions. They meant to raise a mass of ignorant workers that they can control. This is why we are seeing a much larger percentage of ‘adults’ who can’t seem to function in the real world until at 30 if at all.
Secondly, earning a living wage now isn’t something that most high school graduates can achieve quickly as it was in previous generations. Even a college degree doesn’t guarantee a living wage, especially if debt was used to pay for the education. This keeps adult children in the home of their parents which stunts their maturity and empowers wicked patriarchs and matriarchs.
When you are raised to be an extension of a parent like I was, the tools needed to properly function, as an adult not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and financially are missing. Much of my 20s were about learning the hard way lessons that my parents should have taught me in my childhood and teen years. They were okay with kicking me out of their house when I was unemployed and couldn’t afford my own place. This was a control tactic designed to make me beg for their forgiveness and protection. I refused. Then my grandparents also refused to house me as I tried to get back on my feet financially. I was homeless for a few days before my best friend let me come stay with her.
Keep in mind, my parents and grandparents, all believe they are holy saints, yet they punished me for not having skills I needed in order to be a responsible adult in my mid twenties because they refused to teach them to me as a child. It was just one more tactic in seeking to keep me as their everlasting supply and emotionally abuse me.
Some of emotional lessons I am still learning to manage in a healthy manner since I didn’t learn how to deal with my emotions in a healthy way in childhood. I was forced to suppress and repress my negative emotions in order to survive in the home I grew up in. That bad behavioral pattern cost me greatly physically, emotionally financially and spiritually.
I was forced to go no contact with my family in order to escape the abuse and begin to heal. Doing so is worth it. I may still be working on healing from the abuse of my past, knowing they no longer have access to me gives me great peace and satisfaction.
Don’t let the guilt of family keep you stuck in abusive, ungodly relationships. Keeping yourself in abusive relationships, regardless of whether it’s family or not, is not godly. It is the opposite. It is foolishness. It shows a lack of courage, strength, and an unwillingness to follow Christ as he commands in Matthew 10:34-39.
To the brokenhearted men and women trapped in abusive relationships, Jesus beckons come, follow me. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
In Him you will find the freedom your soul longs for.
Lynn- The Genesis passage as you note does refer primarily to leaving when married, though I think that it still has some application to anyone coming into adulthood. I know numbers of cases in which there is a “failure to launch” due to the influence and even outright bullying of a selfish parent who feeds off continued control of their offspring. And in those cases the adult child is unmarried, yet should have departed the umbrella of the parents long ago.
But more directly, the scriptures address this matter in respect to every Christian “coming out from among” the wicked. Of course in so many of these “christian” families, the parent/parents parade as godly people yet are in fact evil. So the trick is to grow wise in regard to evil. To know its tactics. To see it and come out from under its deception. In such cases it is always right to leave that toxic environment. In fact, it is God’s directive that we do so. We are to follow Christ and cease to be enslaved to any evil person, including parents.
Now, of course, if someone is an adult and they choose to remain either living with or in close relationship with non-toxic family because of a variety of circumstances (caring for an elderly parent, etc) then it is certainly fine to do so. And, as you mentioned, living in your parents’ home in a non-toxic and healthy family setting due to economic circumstances or other situations is absolutely fine. But the situations we are addressing here are like those you yourself experienced. Bondage. Promotion of co-dependency. Bullying by a parent who demands control. These are the scenarios we are to depart from. We walk by faith and trust that the Lord will provide for our needs, and we will find freedom.
Along the same line of Lynn’s question, what about the 5th commandment to honor our parents?
That’s ok if you have loving believing parents/caregivers. I think the majority of people are not fit to be parents, either they lack skills and means, were damaged/abused, and others are just evil or both.
My father was the abusive patriarch of the family, and his ‘reign’ was very long and destructive. His first target was my believing mother. I left home as early as I could (late teens) and my Heavenly Father then took me under His wings as I gave my life to Him. I was then able to forgive my earthly father in my heart.
J. D. Gallé
Many good insights, Lynn.
The resultant psychological and emotional damage from being reared in an unhealthy, damaging familial system can leave one with a kind of void. The verbal and emotional abuse of a wicked, entitled sibling, and the lack of emotional nurturance and protection from parents makes for an environment that can do no other than damage. Nevertheless, it can take years, even decades, to begin to unearth how unsafe and harmful is one’s family of origin (in this case, my own). Toxic familial systems can come in many forms.
Pastor Crippen/All, thank you for sharing. These were incredibly relatable.
Even after years of separation, these weeks nearing Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have historically been the worst, between the agony of the disastrous “family” of origin – and the way the abuser used these very holidays to inflict such severe emotional games. It’s sometimes enough to make me want to skip this season altogether – I’m almost there, but not quite.
Lynn, your points were almost exactly the script of what I grew up in. My parents offloaded their responsibility to a private all girls school, so you can imagine how backwards the whole setting was in all that. I saw it, tried to break free and have been treated as if I had left a cult ever since – and I see now, I did.
Thank you all again – and opening with Matthew 10+ was a much needed and priceless reminder and in this day.
So many good thoughts in the post and the comments!
So many examples of deep struggle – my good wishes to each one of you.
One example sums up a lot for me:
You gave advice to a young man, how to get out – set out for a career as a coast guard. And the family tries to damage you and your ministry. How far do they go just for you talking to this young man!
Such a kind of parents interfere (damage) with every aspect of life: friendship, prospective spouse, job opportunity, financial issues, education, finding a seperate place to live, even getting independent advice!
Being the target of an abusive family system may mean, that people are threatened or harmed just for giving advice, giving different perspectives or even opening opportunities to steps to freedom. They make sure the target does not even get a chance to hear different ideas, to think independently.
There is the more subtle shaming and blaming, refering to Christian values, twisting scriptures, which often leaves an impression that something is wrong, but it is hard to put the finger on. Most churches promote family values in a way, that will enforce the effects of this.
Or more direct threats of damage, but if they are given to third parties, the (adult) child (victim) may not even know, why people are behaving the way they do – and anyway, this is all they have ever known.
Many churches will shame and blame (or threaten to excommunicate) for leaving such a family system, for going low to no contact. Like many other abusers, the toxic family members may appear as fine Christians.
In such a case, it may not be obvious, who is for Christ and who is against – who is turned against whom for Christ’s sake. Though, threatening or harming third parties (in this case: you, Pastor), just for giving some independent thought on earning a decent living, surely is evil.
Thank you for shining light on this topic.
What thoughts do you all have on the situation where, you feel like you need to go no-contact with a family member indefinitely, but other family members who you love and trust are still comfortable being in contact with them to some extent or other? I don’t want to avoid the family gatherings altogether. Every time someone brings up the situation, I mentally prepare for a guilt-trip and for being told what I must do (although thankfully that doesn’t always come).
P.S. the person I’m avoiding isn’t an abuser, but is very selfish and a blameshifter – rather toxic.
I hope many of you comment on this question. It is a hard spot to be in. I have been on the guilt-receiving end in this regard many times. For drawing firm safe boundaries with wicked relatives, others in the family were angry with me, blamed me for not “just getting along, after all its your FAMILY” etc. I have also been accused many times of being too judgmental and unloving when I confronted evil people in the church and the majority of other members refused to stand with me.
Largely, it isn’t determinative with us, but with the other family members. If they choose to acknowledge evil and sin in a family member, and if they choose to honor your right to draw those boundaries and even go no-contact, then you will be able to have relationship with them (ie, they will continue to choose to have realtionship with you). But if they willfully refuse to see the evil and/or honor your right as a person to handle toxic people as you need to for your own well-being, then they are going to distance themselves from you over time.
It would seem to me that we also need in these cases to draw boundaries with the other family members who characteristically want to pressure, guilt, and criticize us for protecting ourselves. “I want to have a good relationship with you, but if you are going to try to deny me my own right to choose my relationships that I deem to be safe and reject those that are toxic, then we will not be able to have a healthy relationship either. You must honor and respect my decision in this.” Then the ball is in their court.
Nothing is worth going through life putting up with toxicity injected into our lives by a wicked person. I think that Jesus was telling us this when He said that we must follow Him even if it means family members hate us. Because, in the end, He knows what is good for us and He is leading us out of bondage and into freedom.
I get where you’re coming from Snapdragon.
While I’m not really sure I agree with your assessment that the person who you are avoiding is an abuser – because being chronically selfish and habitually blameshifting are a couple of the signs of a verbal abuser – but that is your call to make.
For me, it was different. I didn’t have one person to avoid. I had all of my immediate family. I didn’t feel safe or comfortable with remaining in contact with my extended family because I didn’t know if they would help keep my parents informed about me. Boundaries don’t really exist in my family. You are either in or you’re out. I didn’t realize how much of my relationships with other family members were focused on the abusive patterns of our parents and grandparents until I went no contact. While I am still connected with a couple of my extended family socially, I don’t make a habit of communicating with them outside of an occasional social media post. If they called and left a message (I don’t answer my phone unless it is someone I know and want to speak to or if I have a call scheduled with someone else), I would probably follow up. They can’t share what they don’t know. Maybe down the road that will change. Maybe not. It’s in God’s hands. If it did, there would need to be some very clear boundaries about what I will and will not tolerate.
I would recommend sitting down, writing out your response, and practice saying it out loud so you know how to respond in a healthy way to the guilt trip you know is coming. Also, start thinking about any other types of boundaries that you need to have around that person you want a relationship with and write them down. Include what the consequences will be if the person doesn’t respect them. Writing them down makes them real and can be a reference for you for future use. You will most likely need to have a conversation with the person you want to remain in contact with and share your boundaries. Offer an explanation as to why you are creating these new boundaries so they understand why you are setting these new boundaries.
I would like to remind all of us that boundaries are for our safety and well-being. In order to successfully practice them, you have to be willing to accept that it will be uncomfortable and that you may not get the support you want from those with whom you place the boundaries with.
As women, the people-pleasing culture that we are raised with makes it hard to say no because we associate no with being disagreeable, even when it’s the best thing for everyone. We want to be viewed as agreeable, and the idea of using the word no seems wrong. For example, saying no to your 5-year-old son when he asks for a candy bar at the store would be a good thing. He’s not as hyped up on sugar which creates more headaches at home. You’re teaching him that he doesn’t always get what he asks for, which is a lesson we all need to learn. If you cave, you’ve just taught him that as long as he can make you uncomfortable, he can get his way. If you are not firm and stick to your boundaries, you are teaching others how they can treat you in order to get what they want.
You are allowed to say no to things that are not healthy for you or that you don’t want to do. Part of becoming a healthy adult is when you accept that the only person you have control over is you. How you behave and the boundaries you are willing to enforce teaches people how they can treat you. I know this is hard but so worth it. Especially when dealing with conflict and emotionally charged conversations, but it’s part of healing from your past hurt and walking in freedom.
If God – the creator of the universe – established and practices boundaries, shouldn’t we as his children model that behavior? An example of this is how God forgives. He has given us instructions in scripture about how we can be forgiven. A sinner must repent of his sin and place his trust in Christ in order to be forgiven. Those who do not repent and trust Christ are not forgiven. Those who do, are. He doesn’t waffle between two opinions. He doesn’t change his boundaries because mankind decides that they want to believe that everyone is loved by God (They aren’t).
Let go of any false guilt you may feel for setting healthy boundaries. It’s not yours to carry. It’s a tool the enemy uses to ensnare you back into bondage. Boundaries are for your protection. They are the most loving thing you can do for others because they clarify who you are and what you will tolerate. Boundaries are a God-given tool to help you grow in freedom. Love them. Practice them and watch how the quality of your life changes.
I can resonate with everyone’s comments and it’s amazing how similar a lot of our stories are. Pastor Crippen – my question though that I can’t seem to get out of my head: how prevalent is familial abuse or any type of abuse for that matter? I mean sometimes I really feel are we just the “lucky” (pun intended) people tagged through some lottery of something at birth to go through abuse in our lives? I guess just coming to terms with why does it happen to some and not to others and understanding the injustices of this world….everything just seems so unfair. I just don’t understand it.
Well, your timing was spot-on for me, Pastor Crippen.
Several years ago, after confronting my mother regarding things she was saying and doing that were alienating my eldest son from her, she told my entire family and many family friends that I had attacked her. My sisters believed her and detached from me – and my children. It was devastating. One of my sisters told me that “we’re not allowed to confront Mom.” I had broken the family culture rules and immediately became the black sheep of the family.
One day, as I grieved the terrible lies and the loss before God, the Spirit spoke tenderly to me, saying, “What you see as a curse is a blessing. I did not abandon you; I rescued you.”
Ah. Suddenly, He helped me to see the toxic, dysfunctional dynamic of our family. My loving Shepherd has graciously loved and looked after this black sheep, and my flock consists of my amazing husband, children and loving friends. My husband says, “Family isn’t always blood, and blood isn’t always family.”
Oh my, so many thoughts on this one, Jeff.
I fled my mother as soon as i was able to pay my way. Long story. Very long.
Subsequently, I did a lot of hard work to forgive her, and learn to establish my own boundaries. Very long story.
I thought her problem was that she was “unwilling to yield”. I felt that one essence of Christianity was being willing to yield. Turns out she was BPD but at the time, as a child, I saw it as huge hypocrisy on her part. I knew I would probably not be a very good wife due to my upbringing so I thought i probably shouldn’t get married. I had a totally stupid short list of what i would even look at for marriage material, weeding out all others, just in case.
Well, to legalize sex, I married my mother – if you know what i mean. I was so focused on being a good wife, and so unaware of the other person’s role in a marriage, that my short list didn’t screen out what i thought it would screen! Took 20 years to figure out.
Well, in hindsight, the in-laws have NO boundaries. Thankfully my boundaries enabled me to resist a lot of their control, but i did go around on this one with them, and I am pleased to say that I argued my “oh-so-theologically-astute” FIL to a complete standstill in response to his statement that, basically, I was marrying into a Lutheran family so I had better do things the way he wanted. Lutherans alone understand the Bible correctly, and so I needed to do things their way, basically.
[ Of course, MIL was the one delivering the message, but i had the argument with FIL, to a standstill. ( He never admitted he was wrong in anything, so a cessation of speech on his part was the best possible outcome!)]
Well, at the time i wasn’t theological but i knew what words and sentences the Bible said. It took me a little bit to figure it out, but here is what I said to him, and i have been able to repeat it with greater certainty as the years go by: um, the Bible specifically teaches that i do NOT have to do what you say. First, the Bible says that the man leaves [ whatever that means] his father and mother. No such description is provided of the woman leaving HER family [whatever that means], so on that basis only, if anyone is obliged to obey the spouse’s parents while married, it certainly isn’t the wife! Furthermore, after marriage, “the head of woman is man, the head of man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God” and that’s all. So, based purely on what the bible says, a new, separate family is formed, apart from the parent’s family, and the parents do not have authority in that new family. Furthermore, there is no other chain of authority in that new family [and you are totally out of line to suggest you are part of any chain of authority in it].
In my context, that line of thinking has not yet been refuted.
Unfortunately, there is plenty else that is wrong, but hopefully
someone can find this helpful somehow.
Hello, Nita. I’m so sorry you went through what you described. What a nightmare.
Dear woman, you have sought truth and stood on it, doing everything you knew to do in terms of trying to claim your value, establish boundaries and say ‘no.’ And I think your understanding of the creation of a new “family” under God makes sense in that the in-laws are no longer essential and may be dismissed in terms of undue influence, especially if they are invasive, controlling and manipulative. Healthy in-laws CAN be a blessing in terms of wisdom, guidance and support, but the people you describe don’t seem to consistently or lovingly exhibit those attributes.
I wonder… are you still in this situation or have you removed yourself from it?
Cindy, thank you for asking.
I had a breakdown beginning (in) 2018 with ongoing extreme continual anxiety culminating in suicidal ideation and a weapon (first time ever) by ( ) 2019. My h, who had recently got into the Christ-has-delegated-his-authority to believers, therefore we can speak things into being, felt that holding me down on the floor to cast out demons while playing Michael Card music loudly was the proper course of action. His brother had come up from ( ) states away and didnt agree, so i was invited to their place, where BIL and wife watched me, got me meds, and required therapy.
Concurrent with that, my MIL was having worsening ( ) cancer symptoms, lots of pain, so my H, her son, led the way in guiding her to rebuke the devil and trust Jesus and other of her kids encouraged her not to go to the doctor. Better heads prevailed, and she’s doing well now. FIL died just before covid hit.
With two years of a front row seat to extended family dynamics, I realized that our marriage has held together so far because I have constantly manned the boundaries. I may have another moment of weakness or get sick myself in the future, so in short, I just could not go back to someone who needs strong boundaries in his life so as to not facilitate the deprivation of an elder from pain-freeing medical treatment. Even if said elder is quite taken with his persuasive religiosity. I may be that weak elder someday and be unable to defend those boundaries. Not okay.
Thankfully, i have a job i work from home and my own father is stll alive and well and has welcomed me as contributing roommate. That gives H time, should he wish to pursue therapy for himself.
(Editor’s note: some details removed to protect identity)
Oh, Nita, you’ve had your share, and I’m so sorry.
I was married to a biblically versed “Christian” abuser for 20 years and now have a ministry to women in abusive relationships. Although you are being generous to give your husband time to seek therapy, I just want you to know that abusers almost exclusively prefer power and control over genuine relationship. They tend to seek help for a time – until they believe they have done their due diligence, and then they see it as their wives’ obligation to take them back. I simply encourage you to trust your gut if you don’t have a peace about reconciling. There is nothing biblical about abuse in marriage, and you don’t have to live that way.
I hope you will take care of you, use this time to detox and heal, and enjoy this time with your father.
Praying for you; may the Lord bless you with wisdom and strength.
Cindy, I’d second your advice to Nita, and your words.
Bless you all,