I Got It From My Family

Exodus 20:5

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

People get stuck on this commandment: “What? God is going to punish me for the sins of my father and grandfather? That is not fair!”

First of all, God is talking about natural consequences. Natural consequences are the laws of nature which he created. God is just. He has to be. Why would we respect and obey a God who is not just? If he let us get away with anything and everything, why would we need him? He set up the world to give us consequences, positive and negative. He rewards behaviors that please him with good consequences and punishes behaviors that displease him with negative consequences.

Secondly, haven’t you observed how consequences really do seem to run in families? A family is messed up because the parents are messed up. The parents are dysfunctional because they grew up in a dysfunctional home. The grandparents went through their own childhood trauma, etc. etc. No, the latest generation may not have done anything wrong but it is still paying the price for prior generations’ bad behavior. Fortunately, God gives each individual the freedom to come to him, to desire a better life, and to be healed.

Third, and most importantly, this passage reveals the nature of those consequences. God is a just God but he is also incredibly merciful! Notice how the punishment lasts three to four generations but the reward lasts for a thousand?

This means that when we behave badly, in ways that are against God’s wishes and therefore against the laws of nature, we suffer bad consequences. But, relative to the degree of the bad behavior, those consequences are short-lived. On the contrary, if we obey God and please him, he will bless us with consequences that are huge relative to the degree of the good behavior!

So, yeah. God is just and that sucks sometimes. But more than anything God is love and mercy. He wants to set things right between him and us. He wants a relationship of trust and love far more than he wants punishment. We have only to ask his forgiveness. The negative consequences of our sin will still occur but they will be shortened dramatically.

Build a life on obeying God and the goodness of that life will ripple into your future and into others’ lives in a pervasive and lasting way.

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It took me three years to realize that I am a fallen creature. I have been struggling and groping my way back to the Light. Here are a few things that I have learned along the way....

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