Monday, November 16, 2009

Sins of Our Fathers

"Yet you ask, 'Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?' Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him." (Ezekiel 18:19-20)

This scripture refutes the commonly held theology of 'Original Sin'. But that does not absolve the son from suffering the consequences of his father's sin. I've pointed out before that often single and teenage parenthood are cycles that repeat themselves in the children of these families.

My Evangelist described it to his teenage daughter this way, "When I made the decision to follow Christ, I broke a long cycle of insanity in my family." The insanity he's referring to is a history of physical abuse and drug/alcohol addiction. He continues, "by choosing to follow Jesus, I don't have to subject my children to the same insanity. I can now live by a higher standard. I am no longer defined by my history, but by my relationship with Christ."

When children are raised in a home without active addiction present (the keyword: active) then they are less likely to either take up the same addiction or be driven to co-dependency. But that requires not only thorough repentance and a commitment to the higher standard of Christ. Without that, the cycle continues more subtly. The addiction may not be 'active' but the character remains.

I have to be conscious of this in my own life and my relationship with my children. At only 4 and 2, my children have already learned that my emotional reaction to their behavior is unpredictable. Will I respond with a fatherly sternness, appropriate and proportional? Or will I fly off the handle and let my emotions determine my response? Sadly, it depends.

At the same time, even though there is no 'active' usage in my home, I worry about the decisions my children will ultimately make as they grow older. I know they will let me down with their decisions. That doesn't mean they'll automatically be addicts, but it also doesn't guarantee they'll remain abstinent until marriage. How will I respond to that? Bottom line, I need to trust God over my own parenting.

Serving in an addiction ministry helps keep this in perspective. I was very moved a couple of years ago when a friend shared about the regret he had in putting his kids through literal hell because of his alcoholism. Last night I heard the other perspective, from a son expressing the regret in putting his father through the same hell. My experience as a son falls somewhere in between each of these accounts, but the book hasn't been written of the legacy I will leave as a father.

Praise God we have a Father in Heaven that can be the example to which I strive.

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