Read: Psalm 13
O Lord, how long will You forget me? Forever (v.1).
My father grew up without a dad. When he was 5 years old, his father left the family and never returned. When friends later asked my grandfather whether he was related to my dad, he refused to admit that my dad was his son—disowning and declaring him to be a distant relative.
By most accounts, I also should have grown up in a broken home with a distant dad. Scripture says that the sins of the fathers are passed along to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:18; Jeremiah 32:18). It’s said that molested children grow up to be child molesters; the abused become the abusers; and children with absent parents turn into parents who are unavailable for their own kids.
But I didn’t. Jeremiah 31:29-34 proclaims a new day in which the cycle of generational sin is broken. Children need not pass on the sins of their parents, for the power of the new covenant—promised in that passage and accomplished in Jesus—enables us to buck the trend of sin in our families and to begin a new cycle of love and faithfulness.
Ezekiel 18:19-20 picks up on Jeremiah’s promise and announces that “the child will not be punished for the parent’s sins,” but “the child [who] does what is just and right and keeps my decrees, that child will surely live.” If we’re victims of bad parenting, we don’t have to perpetuate it. Each of us starts fresh before God.
Not that it’s easy. My father was deeply wounded by his absent father, and his own parenting bore the scars. At times he overcompensated, trying too hard to be the perfect father in the perfect home. But I never doubted that I was loved. My father chose to absorb my grandfather’s hate rather than pass it on. He started a new cycle, and so can you.
How is your parenting a reflection of how you were raised? What can you do to shield your family from generational sin?