Part 2: Everyone has a past. How will you make a new future?
This is not a list of the characteristics of people we would want to associate with. But people with these characteristics appeared in Jesus’ family tree (see Matthew 1). You and I can choose many things but can’t choose our family.
I’ve watched many men remain trapped in the story of their past. I watched this play with my own family. I grew up in a blue-collar home. I’m proud because it taught me many things about life, working hard, and being responsible. But it also caused me to believe a lot of crap that followed me around for far too long.
My family tree convinced me that it was my lot always to be financially broke. My family tree convinced me I would never be better or escape the routine of hard labor. I would never become successful. I would labor until my body eventually gave out. Even though it was never said out loud, I learned that life was hard and could never rise above my station. The sins and circumstances of previous generations would continue the curse on me and my legacy through alcoholism, gambling, and abuse.
Have you found yourself in this trap?
A man’s past can betray his potential.
I think this is why I like reading Jesus’ genealogy. When reading the Bible, most people skip over this part of Matthew 1. It seems like a list of hard-to-pronounce names that have no bearing on the rest of the story. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Jesus’ family tree makes all the difference and influences who Jesus is.
Jesus’ family tree recognizes that God uses all sorts of people and situations to shape the future. While painful, the good and the bad of the past are relevant. Jesus’ history shaped him and his mission.
There’s much theology here that we don’t have time to explore but let me say this: Jesus redeemed his past and made a new and different future. And, through Jesus, this can happen for you, too.
Matthew’s Gospel, in verse 21, tells us, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” The name “Jesus” literally means “the LORD saves.” This is critically important.
Jesus saves you from your past and allows you to create a new future. He redeems all the garbage that can follow you through life, causing trauma and dysfunction. Jesus never ignores the past, but he can and will create a new family tree branch out of you.
Here’s a silly story from my past that proves this. I grew up in a family that swore and cussed often. By often, I mean all the time! Every other word out of the mouths of men in my family was dirty and ugly. Usually, they would include taking the LORD’s name in vain. It never bothered me because it was all I knew.
When I was 16, I started following Jesus. I never preached to my family. They could see a change in me. But what I began noticing is that the swearing and cussing died down. I never complained about it or spoke against it, but something happened. I believe God convicted them of their language, and he began to change them. Now, I rarely hear the men of my family of origin swear.
Hopefully, God is redeeming and growing a new branch through my family.
Jesus changed the trajectory of his family tree, and he can work with you to change your course. You can say NO to the past and let Jesus recreate something different through you. He can save you and give your family a new story.
Here’s why I think this is so important in the larger conversation of masculinity. Far too often, men believe that our masculinity is tied to the past. We must be like our dads or grandfathers. Sometimes this is great. You might have healthy male role models and want to pass on their influence. Often, many don’t. To you, I say discover a new future in Jesus and break the broken and painful cycles of the past. Let Jesus grow a new branch on your family tree. Or, if necessary, let Jesus start an entirely different tree through you.
This is a conversation that may bring up pain in you. Feel free to reach out for a private conversation if you need to walk through this with someone.