I used to find it very boring, sometimes annoying, to read those genealogies in the bible, especially because some of the names were beyond my capacity to pronounce properly the Hebrew or Greek (or whatever).
But by the time we get to the New Testament with its genealogies of Jesus, God’s Son, the son of Joseph and Mary, it starts to make sense to me. The sense that dawned on me came in a zigzag manner, like the inclusion of some “not so straight” (i.e. indisputably righteous) persons in Jesus genealogy.
We have roots. We did not simply arrive here. Our story may have a much longer back tail than it does a foot forward. And that back tail may be curly, kinky and, at some points, not all straight. Not that we must be stuck in the pain of bad memories which cannot be erased, but we must be ever mindful not to repeat the errors of the past.
Obviously, from what follows on, most of the descendants of those named in Genesis had gone and done wrong. They lost favour with God. The narrative to follow will be completely useless- except to those including ones seek evidence that the bible should or should not be taken literally (i.e. flood or no flood?)- if we don’t get the point that God who created humankind in the divine image had a great purpose for humankind then and now.
God wants us to live up to this great plan through which we accept divine enabling to indeed “become as God”. This happens, not simply because our eyes are opened and we have the knowledge of good and evil, but as we let God enable us to live wisely on the basis of such knowledge. God is always willing to help us with that, for it is not God’s will that any should perish (2 Peter 3: 9).
Yes, we all have stories that precede us, some for which we are easily thankful and gladly remember, others that we’d prefer to forget. We can own our stories, letting them instruct but forbidding them to wholly determine our next steps. We have been made with the capacity for choice.
Sometimes, choosing how to put the past behind us can present seemingly insurmountable challenges. For example, victims of ethnic cleansing, long term slavery and other socially sanctioned injustices of the past, may be caught in a dilemma knowing when to demand reparation and when to remember that the God of justice can be trusted to dispense judgement in unforeseen ways.
Yes, it is truly a challenge for persons to yield imposed yet internalised limitations that have fuelled generations of repressed thoughts and feelings of inferiority, cultural bad memories so to speak. But my prayer is that through it all, in spite of it all, in church and community, we shall pray:
Lord for ourselves; in living power remake us –
Self on the cross and Christ upon the throne,
Past put behind us, for the future take us:
Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.
(Christopher Dudley Smith)