Everyone who’s gone to the doctor is familiar with the paperwork. Two pages. 10 pages. A 30-page dissertation. However high the stack, there’s always a section on family history. How did your grandpa die? Did your great aunt Ruth have recurrent nail fungus? The usual questions.
Every time I do this section of the paperwork blues, I can’t help but think of generational sins. I’ve been laughed out of a conversation on this one, but hold tight. It makes sense. More sense than how great Aunt Ruth’s toenail fungus connects to your current case of pneumonia.
Generational sin can be characterized as a nasty, dirty family secret being passed from one generation to the next. Alcoholism. Porn. Drug addiction. Laziness. Gluttony. The annoying habit of chewing one’s gum with their mouths open. That sort of thing. There’s a pattern to it. A qualm which arises in each child’s life as to whether their ways will mirror that of the earlier generation.
Statistically speaking, children coming out of homes with drug addiction are more likely to abuse substances themselves. Children of absent fathers are more likely to experience severe hardships and more likely to replicate patterns of bad parenting. It’s science.
Before there were abhorrently long studies detailing the patterns of sinfulness in the lives of the modern family, God warned us about “generational curses.” He was like, “Hey, dudes, if you decide to sin, your actions could affect your family to the third generation after you. That’s not cool. So, I’d stop if I were you.”
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
God doesn’t pleasure in handing His children the “cursed card.” It’s just the consequences of our actions. The stomachache after too much candy. The hangover after a night of poor decisions. The silent treatment after forgetting your wife’s birthday…
Generational curses are a thing, and if we’re not aware of them, the more likely they will screw up our lives. Just as individuals with a family history of heart disease need their cholesterol checked regularly, we need to regularly check our susceptibility to certain temptations.
Also, good news, we can stop generational sin.
Just as the verse above outlines how God “punishes” those who violate morality to the third and fourth generations, those who hold to His decrees will be blessed for many more generations.
“…But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
The other neat thing is that Jesus stopped the greatest generational curse of all: death. Adam and Eve, our original parents, brought sin into the world. I wonder if the oft-expressed “I HATE YOU,” mantra from teens is acceptable for us to say to them in this case.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned… For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!”
Death came along with sin. Spiritual and physical death. Death has been passed from that first generation to every generation after. Christ ended the cycle of mortality by sacrificing His own life for the sake of our physical and spiritual lives.
So, even If everyone if our family has struggled with a certain destructive behavior, Christ can equip us with the power to change our family’s pattern. Just as He intervened for us, we can intervene in our family’s lineage of self-destruction.
“Therefore he is able to save completely[a] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
Personally, my family has a history of addiction on both sides. As a result, I abstain from all strong drink, drugs, smoking, and even too much junk food. I examine my life to ensure addictive tendencies are not invading any area of my existence. This could even be “constructive” things like exercise. Any good thing can become bad in excess. Anything can become an obsession, a god in my life, a thing I put before Yahweh, the one true God. No bueno.
Having a healthy lineage requires maintenance. Being at the doctor so much, I have the advantage of regular reminders of my family history. I thought I’d pass on the favor.
What are the areas of your life, and your family’s, that could cause erosion in your life if not monitored?