Talk about a set up. Generational sin tops the list. While we were still sleeping in the womb, minding our own business, the baleful result of Adam’s sin devastated us. That’s so unfair: We weren’t the ones who ate the apple! Nevertheless, we came into this world as separated from God as Adam became after his fall. We didn’t even know how strange, wrong and unnatural our birth was.
Forget for a moment all the other sins we’ve been hit with by people near and far. This one sin crippled us before we even got started. We were all born not knowing our God—not knowing His great love, His nearness, and His intimate care. We could not even sense our God, much less see Him. Adam had all that and failed to pass it on to us. But, well, you know the rest of that story.
How Adam’s Sin Is Overthrown
This is what I call the “granddaddy” of all generational sin. If you can “see” how damaging to you this one sin has been, then you can begin to see how the curse has been at work in other ways. For instance, as bad as it is that we were born not knowing our true Father, that’s not all that befell us. Just like Adam, we now have a nature that wants to walk away from God, rather than towards Him; a nature that prefers our will to His; a nature that trusts our own understanding rather, than God’s.
We call that fallen nature Adam’s nature in honor of the one who passed it on to us. It’s called fallen because it always and only wants to fall away from God and His grace. Now get this: We were never meant to have it at all. As long as wraps us up in its warped, self-centered perspective we can never reconnect with our God and get free of it. Our only option is to live under the leadership of that false god, Self. How has that been working out?
That’s why our Father has so much compassion for us. He works through everything to draw us back to Himself. Then, He immediately rushes to our rescue when we turn to Jesus by a) unveiling our spiritual eyes so that we can “see” Him by faith, and b) giving us a new nature, one in the likeness of Jesus, not Adam. Now we can at least make a choice: Do we want to follow Jesus or Self? In this way, we slowly overcome the effects of Adam’s sin, step by step. For more on just how grace-filled our Father is see “How Does God See Us?”
Other Forms of Generational Sin
Unfortunately, Adam’s sin isn’t the only generational sin that afflicted us. Again, an Enemy hood-winked us at birth. All of us were born with deficits which would seem natural to us, ways of going at life that have nothing to do with God’s ways. They were simply the ways of our parents and of earlier generations as we received them and walked in them. They seemed natural because it was all we knew of life—not having a clearer understanding to compare them to.
In this unintentional way, we have all inherited some generational sin patterns that become obstacles to our Christian growth. Think of the national stereotypes. These cannot be applied in every case, but there is a reason why we have them. So, we have Scotch with a reputation for being too frugal, British for being too reserved, Germans for being too whatever, and Americans for being too brash. A generational sin pattern isn’t always picked up by the next generation, but there is a gravitational tendency to fall into it.
There is an even darker side, however, to generational sin. The curse and its consequences can travel down the generational lines, afflicting succeeding generations with disease, mental illness, criminal behavior, occult involvement and other truly damaging effects. We know that crack babies suffer terribly for the addictive sin of their parents. This is a direct impact. But there is a sinister creep of past generations into present ones. That’s why our doctors all take family histories. If certain a disease afflicted past family members, watch out!
Questions this Truth Raises
Many people have never been shown what the Bible teaches about generational sin. When they hear about it, it always raises questions, even outright objections. It seems so cruel and unfair of God. How is it right that children are punished for the sins of their ancestors? Why do we suffer from sins of the past? (Suffering because of our own sins is bad enough!) And what can we do about it?
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Why the Problem Exists
Generational sin effects happen because God isn’t bound by time. Unrepented sin remains a fresh stain before Him. He views past wrongs as present sins. This keeps generational sin “alive” long after the person who sinned dies. “Like begets like,” even concerning unwanted characteristics. God revealed to Moses that our sin account is not canceled by death, but only with repentance.
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord… a God merciful and gracious… but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7
Unrepented sin continues to cause chaos in coming generations. Since God gives us freedom of choice, when we choose to sin and do not repent, we are unwittingly “choosing” the consequences of those sins to affect the following generations. This is never what our loving Father wants! In fact, God doesn’t do the punishing. He already punished Jesus for our sins. But He does allow the punishing effects of our wrong choices to keep visiting the earth until someone recognizes sin as sin, and repents of it.
But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers… and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob.” Leviticus 26:40-42
The Pattern Is Not Compulsory
We don’t have to walk in the sins of our parents. The effects of generational sins don’t mean we don’t have free will, but that unrepented sin causes negative legacies within families and nations. There is a natural tendency for a generational sin pattern to seem attractive or feel compelling. Nevertheless, God through Ezekiel says that everyone is responsible only for their own choices. Therefore, a son cannot die because of his father’s sins, only his own.
“The soul who sins shall die… Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise… shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live.” Ezekiel 18:4, 14, 17
How Generational Sin Is Passed Down
1) Nature: Damaged physiological and psychological genetic inheritance that doesn’t come from God but rather from humanity’s fall.
2) Nurture: The emotional environment and training that takes place at home shape the children born into it. Both the good and the bad in us passes into our children.
3) Spiritual: Habitual sins can draw spirits to families which may carry characteristics of the curse down the family tree.
What We Can Do About It
This truth from God is not intended to push anyone into fear, or to put a guilt trip on us, or to cast blame on previous generations. At every step of the way, we had a choice whether to walk in the light of Christ, or to tread a darkened path blazed by those who went before us. Nevertheless, it does help to have this light shed upon why we “went wrong” in some of the ways we did and why we have certain problems or issues to deal with that others in different family lines don’t have.
The grace and power of God are so good, however, that we have no need of fear. God can and will make everything that has ever happened to us work for our good as we give it back to Him in prayer. No matter what came our way through the generations, we can repent of it on our own behalf and that of our ancestors and ask God to cleanse our family line by the Blood of His Son.
Having done that, we can take up this truth and use it as a powerful motivation. If earlier generations had a harmful effect upon us (and their sins did), then let’s cling to Jesus so that we don’t commit sins that will harm the generations who follow us. Let us realize that our choices powerfully influence other people, especially our children whether we intend to or not. Knowing this truth strengthens us to keep going in the right direction when the going gets tough.
The Way to Freedom
Generational patterns are hard to notice because we grew up accustomed to how things were in the family. To find freedom from any negative pattern that you recognize, forgive family members for their part, take responsibility yourself and repent, renounce and carry the unrepented sin to Christ. Then, give thanks to the Lord and say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Dear Heavenly Father, in the Name of Jesus, I choose by an act of my will to forgive my father (or other family members) for all the ways that he failed me or hurt me. I renounce the sins in my generational line and I repent for having walked in them myself. Forgive me and break their power over me. I put the Blood of Jesus between me and any generational sin and I cancel all assignments of the enemy in Jesus’ Name. I choose to fully accept myself as the child of the father You gave me. Holy Spirit please come… heal my broken heart, tell and show me Your Truth.
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