“Children suffer for the sins of their parents.”
This was a popular teaching for one legalist teacher I knew. He believed that the sins of the fathers could be seen for many generations following. He taught that believers should not adopt because they would be bringing into their families the sins of a different heritage. He warned men and women that they would see the fruit of their sins in their own children. Confession was important, but who could confess someone else’s sins? Children were told to go to grandparents and ask for confession so they would know what sins to bring before the Lord. Family stories were fields ripe for the harvest of supposed sins to confess.
Of course, children do suffer because of the sins of their parents. This is obvious. If a parent is an alcoholic, the children will almost certainly suffer. If a parent is wasteful with money, the children will suffer want. Parents make decisions that affect those around them. We understand that the effect of a parent’s sin can be experienced by a child.
But does the guilt of a parent’s sin pass on to the children? And do the children necessarily carry within themselves the seed of the same sin that held their parents in bondage? And what about the cleansing Jesus brought to the parents?
Again, this is a large topic. Let me offer a couple of thoughts.
First, no child is accountable for the sins of his or her parent. The Lord made this clear way back in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 18, particularly verses one through four. This passage is specifically dealing with the idea that sins are passed on to children. We are told there: “The soul that sins, it shall die.”
In other words, the Lord deals with each person individually. The children do not suffer spiritual accountability for the sins of their parents. This was a word from the Lord, given under the Law, to make very clear that generational sins carried no spiritual consequence.
Second, no generational sin clings to the lineage of those who belong to Christ. Doesn’t it seem odd that we would speak of generational sins that cling to the lives of family members when the Lord makes it clear that we have been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ? If our sins were washed away so that we are no longer identified by them, as we are told in 1 Cor 6:11, then how can we say that there are sins we can still pass on to our kids?
I realize that this is a strong teaching for many people and I am treading on holy toes. But we are either washed or we are not. Our sins are either gone or they are not. I find no exceptions in Scripture, no sin that is stronger than the blood of Christ. Show me where I am wrong.
Finally, no offering remains if the blood of Christ is insufficient. If the application of the blood did not wash away the generational sin, what will? Good works? Confession? I see nothing left.
Please understand that parents can pass down behaviors and values and attitudes to their children. Parents who lie will probably teach their children to lie. Things like divorce, alcoholism, work instability, and much more are easily passed by the normal attention children give to the lives of their parents. We do learn from them.
But we are not in bondage to any kind of generational sin so that we can find someone to blame for our problems. It does nothing for me to go to the Lord and confess the sins of my father or grandfather. If that made any sense it would lead all of us to simply confess the sin of Adam and consider the rest covered. But the only one responsible for my sin was me and the only way of forgiveness was through the blood of Jesus Christ.
So go to the Lord yourself. Take no one else with you. Confess your own sins and receive the salvation He offers. Trust that His blood washes away all sin from your life. In Him, you move forward in freedom and victory.