Know this: I will send you the prophet Elijah
before the great and terrible Day of Adonai comes,
and he will reconcile parents to their children,
and children to their parents,
so that, when I come,
I need not strike the land with utter destruction.
Malachi 4:5 (some English translations versus 5-6)
It is anachronistic to understand the image of parents and children reconciled as a reference to familial love. Malachi lived at a time when families were exhorted to honor each other. Love, as the binding cement of nuclear and extended families, would be an understanding centuries in the making. The family cement for Malachi was the covenant of Sinai – the causal “if you do, then I will do” expectations of the Sacred.
Still, the sentiment of family reconciliation as a sign of hope is as tender as it is curious. Malachi is not envisioning sugar-coated families of the nature of Ozzie and Harriet. Malachi envisions broken families where passions have been strained and family bonds torn and shattered. Malachi is thinking of those families that have flown apart and in their brokenness find each other once again.
I cannot help but think of those families in which the attack on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and asexual members prove traumatic and distressing: parents who have abandoned their queer children, siblings who have cut ties with their queer brothers or sisters. These families’ ability to turn with their hearts to each other is certainly a blessing to the land. All of these varied family structures remind us that there is something wonderful and life affirming about families who give their hearts to each other.
While I take joy in this image from Malachi, I am aware that families of birth present a unique issue for many a queer person – often our families of birth are the seat of the attitudes that deny us our dignity.
I find it curious that this metaphor of reconciled families is given as a sign of hope. It is saying that God’s new day is like when a dad turns to his son, and the son to his dad. The dad saying “I’m sorry,” and the son saying “It's okay, I understand.” Certainly this is a day worth struggling for, because reconciliation truly opens up a future which otherwise remains denied.