There’s a sect of folks in Christianity that believe in what is called “generational sin”. In this view, God visits the sins of parents on their children without the child having committed such sin. An example of this would be if God were to punish a child for the child’s father’s embezzlement. Let me say this is categorically untrue and is unsupported in ALL of Scripture! Those who support this tend to pick and choose a few verses, and then they spin off into semi-logical diatribes that do not connect with the whole of Scripture.
Hence, this post is NOT about such “generational sin.” Rather, it is about the fact that we, as parents, have a tendency to pass on our own weaknesses and tendencies to our children. This may be some pet-peeve around how we say wash versus warsh, or maybe it’s the strang habit of always sipping/tasting a drink before we consume it. And yet, this can extend to less ancillary habits, such as a tendency to be a workaholic or a predilection for sexual sin. And these latter examples are the main thrust of this posts caution.
How many of us could make that same statement? To put it another way, “follow me, and I will show you Jesus.” I don’t know about you, dear Reader, but for me, that statement would make me shudder. I don’t think I reflect Jesus well enough to be so confident. And yet, the Apostle Paul knew his sinful state, and yet, he could make that claim. Why? Because the man knew our Lord!
The real question is not, “do I completely and accurately reflect Jesus enough…” but “am I keeping my eyes on Jesus enough…”. It’s never about me! It is all about Jesus. If I am keeping my eyes on Him and seeking TO reflect Him, then I can say, “follow me, and I will show you Jesus” because I am no longer thinking about how I measure up but how He is faithful!
Before I go further, I should inject a caveat here that the above verse is pulled away from it’s context. Anytime someone pulls a verse away from it’s context, there is the danger of contorting it to fit some preconceived notion; as the old adage goes, “text without context is pretext.” I’ll leave that to you to look up the words and understand the meaning, but in this case, Paul’s discussion is one of putting right living in context, that living rightly is not about doing so for righteousness sake, but that we are to live rightly in reflection of Jesus, looking out for those who are weaker and need more strict adherence to rules, so that we do not cause people to stumble in their walk with God. Hence, I believe the context of this Scripture speaks to what I’m expounding, even though not directly.
So, what am I saying? It boils down to this: as parents, we should be seeking Jesus so intently, our eyes fixed so directly on Jesus that our children reflect Jesus! Additionally, where we stumble and fail to keep our eyes so fixed, our children will likely stumble and fall, as well. And yet, this isn’t meant to disparage but to encourage!
We (in the US, at least) live in a culture that is heavily anti-God. With it’s support of blatant sin, rationalization of greed, justification for corruption, and increased pornofication of entertainment, it is clear that American culture has shifted from honoring God, into distancing itself from God, to downright turning against God. As such, our children face a greater challenge in coming-to, seeking, and following Jesus in this present day. While it has always been a challenge, our “modern” culture, in the US, has made it even more difficult to follow Him and has increased the temptations away from Him!
As such, it is incumbent upon us to pursue Him even more fervently than our parents may (or may not) have done! When temptation rears it’s ugly head, it is not just about what sin may do to us! It now becomes what it may do to us and do to our children! What example will this set? How will my children overcome this, if I do not?
“But my sin is private! My kids never see it! That can’t affect them!”
This idea was started in the 90s, and I’ve watched it destroy many men and women of God. Here’s the unvarnished truth: It will ALWAYS affect them! They may not find your playboys, but they’ll pick up on how you view women. They may not notice your boyfriend leaving in the early hours, but they recognize there’s a lingering fragrance that wasn’t there last night, or maybe that there’s something different about you. They may not smell the alcohol, see the theft, or realize the depth of lies that were spoken, but one day, the pieces will connect in their brain, and they will begin repeating the pattern.
Now, this is not a promise. Maybe you are the exception to this rule; perhaps, you have the child that blazes his/her own trail and is unaffected by your sin. Maybe! But honestly, do you really think it’s loving toward them to bank on that? Is it truly loving to hope they turn out different than you, when you know you could do something to ensure they have a better chance?
Let me put it a different way. Let’s say that you knew your kid would grow up healthy, strong, and mentally fit if you chose to forego dinner. Assuming you were a healthy adult and all that meant was a little hunger every evening, wouldn’t you choose that evening hunger for the sake of your child? If you wouldn’t, then I beg you to lay yourself before the cross and repent of selfishness. But assuming you would, then why would you not deny temptation and pursue Christ for the sake of your child?
As a single parent, I understand the challenge I’m laying before you. To put it simply, I enjoyed being married! And I abhor being single! Even so and despite the failures I’ve had, I desire to pursue Jesus with everything I have, for the sake of my children. This is not to say that I pursue Jesus just because of my children! God forbid it! Yet, when I am in the depths of whatever ache, as my flesh yearns for some sinful desire (or a godly desire to be fulfilled by sinful means), one of my handholds is the reality that I don’t want to be a reason my children stumble. Furthermore, when my children are tempted as I have been, I want to be able to encourage them that I, too, have been tempted and, by Jesus’ strength, prevailed!
Consequently, I do not find cause to believe in generational sin, but I do find cause to believe that parents set examples for their children! And as such, I encourage myself, and my fellow Believers who are parents, to step up, once-more, and hold to Jesus through whatever temptations for the cause of Christ and for your families! He is faithful, and the more we conform ourselves to His faithfulness, the more we can confidently tell our children, “imitate me, as I imitate Jesus”. More than that, we can stand, with confidence, at the throne of Mercy and say, “I set the example for my children, by letting Jesus hold me and by Him showing my children Who He is!”
This is a mighty call! And yet, Scripture often refers to fathers as warriors (Psalm 127:4), refers to children being saved through their mothers’ examples (1 Corinthians 7:14), and refers to wives as having a powerful impact even without words or warfare (1 Peter 3:1b). Hence, there is a powerful impact we parents can make, if we are in Jesus! So, no matter how you feel about yourself, with Jesus as your source and provision, stand-up, repent of whatever sins you have harbored, and begin walking the narrow road, following Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who guides us, provides for us, carries us, and strengthens us for every challenge He places before us, even those challenges He has placed for us to watch Him conquer while we endure through His provided means.
Godspeed – 1 Corinthian 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is within me.”