Like Father, Like Son

Family System Theory, or Bown Theory, is a string of psychotherapy that treats a family as a whole. It recognizes the impacts of a family's emotional system to its members rather than just treating the abnormal behaviour of an individual member. The theory has eight fundamental concepts, and one of them is called "Family Projection Process." This principle describes the value system parents pass down to their children, which mostly impacts the one that receives the most attention from their parents. In Abraham's family, there is no doubt that Isaac was that child.

We learn two things in Genesis 26:1-10. We observe that God reaffirm His promises to the heir of Abraham. We also read that Isaac made the same mistake with his father despite that he wasn't even born when his father committed that sin. What Isaac did from verse 7 to 10 reminds us of what his father did twice in chapter 12 and 20. Both the father and son lied to the people they sojourn to that their wives were their sisters. Although in Abraham's two accounts, Sarah (Sarai in ch.12) was taken by the local kings while Rebekah, Isaac's wife, was not, it doesn't mean that Isaac was better than his father. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Since it seems to imply that Sarah was taken by the two kings shortly after their arrival, Abraham's worry may have some truth in it. (It still doesn't justify what he did) Conversely, verse 8 told us that Isaac and his family stayed in Gerar for a long time and none of the local people, nor the king had touched her. It proves that Isaac's worry was not necessary.

Further, wasn't God the one that told him to stay in Gerar? Didn't God just promise to bless him and give him all these lands? Comparing to his faith in God when Abraham was about to offer him as the sacrifice in chapter 22, Isaac somehow falls short in the same area as his father did before. Both the father and the son feared that their wives' attractiveness will jeopardize their lives and even God could not save them.

Not only that Isaac's unnecessary worry a display of lack of faith in God, but his selfishness also put people around him in danger of sin. Thus Abimelek, king of the Philistines said: "What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us." (v.10, NIV) God's purpose in calling Abraham was to bless all nations through his descendants. And Isaac was the line that God predestined to pass down the blessings. Because of his lie, Isaac almost brought curses to those people who open their arms to his family in times of famine. The one that supposed to be the light and salt of the world and judge the world became the one that is being judged by the pagan king.

We all more and less receive some value, habits, or emotional system passed down by our parents or the extended family. Some of them influence us in a more positive and some in more negative ways. Everyone wants to preserve the good ones and rid the bad ones. But in most cases, it is just so difficult to do because the emotional heritage runs in our DNA. For people who believe in God, there is hope. We don't need to fall in the same areas where our parents fell because the new life Jesus Christ give can change everything. There are countless examples of the chain of the unchristlike family traditions broken because one decides to give their life to Christ.

One of my seminary professors is supposed to be an alcoholics. According to the DNA test, he has a very high percentage of becoming one. And the fact is almost all the males in his family line before him were alcoholics. But this seemly unstoppable trend ended in his generation. He believes that it was because he became a Christian. Jesus Christ can break the bondage of a negative emotional system by giving you and me a new life and a new heart.

Is there a value, habit, or an emotional system running in your family which you don't like? You don't need to share the detail with your partner, only let him/her know whether there are some. If there are, pray for each other in the name of Jesus Christ that the bondage of bad family traditions and influences will be broken.