Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Generational Sin" ~ Are We Sure We Understand This Phrase?

With four adopted sisters, I can attest to the fact that we've received the kinds of comments and questions the writer of the article below alludes to.  We're very thankful for Mr. Baucham's clear explanation concerning the issue of "generational sin" so thought I'd post it here. 

Though Mr. Baucham is addressing "Adoption Anxiety", this article really is a must read for anyone who may have a wrong understanding of what "generational sin" actually means, whether we're speaking of adopted children, biological children, or ourselves.  Far too many have an unbiblical understanding of this issue, which I hope will be cleared up after reading what this article has to say.


After adopting Elijah, Asher, and Judah, I have become increasingly aware of high levels of anxiety among Christian families considering adoption. This anxiety seems to stem from misinformation-- not misinformation about the adoption process, the finances involved, or the tough work of assimilating children into one’s family-- this misinformation is theological in nature. There are those in the Christian community who have raised concerns about adopting children due to generational curses, family sins, and/or familiar spirits attached to adopted children. This is disturbing on many levels. Let me address three: The universality of sin, the blame game, the priority of parenting, and the power of the blood of Christ. 
A number of well-meaning saints have asked me, “Don’t you worry about generational curses, or familiar spirits that you may be inviting into your home? This is quite an ironic question for at least two reasons. First, my wife and I (like most couples) come from a long line of sin and dysfunction. If anything, I should have been worried about generational curses on the children we bore more than those whom we adopt. Moreover, all human beings are born in sin (Psalm 51:5). We all have a sin nature (Romans 3:10). This question seems to suggest that there are some wonderful church-going women out there who give birth via immaculate conception! Who am I to think that my wife and I gave birth to children who are free from baggage, but those whom we adopt are somehow ‘unclean’ compared to our biological children?  That would be pure arrogance on our part. 
Second, this thinking is ironic because it is often based on a misunderstanding, or a misuse of Scripture. Some have taken the Lord’s admonition in the second commandment out of context. The text says: 
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6; cf, Ex 34:6, 7; Num 14:18, 33; Deut 5:9, 10; 1Kin 21:29; Jer 32:18) 
Some have taken this to mean that there are ‘generational curses’ that follow children throughout their lives.  While it is true that my sin impacts my children (especially when they see me do it), it is not true that they are cursed, or doomed to repeat my sins. 
We must read these texts in light of what the Bible says about this issue in places like Ezekiel 18.  
“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, ‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, But the children’s teeth are set on edge’? “As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore. “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.” (Ezekiel 18:1-4) 
The soul who sins-- not the son of the soul who sins-- will die. The Lord is addressing the very misconception that currently plagues some in the Christian community, and sometimes discourages many from engaging in the ministry of adoption. 
God most assuredly fulfilled this warning when he sent Israel into captivity (as well as other places). However, we do not see a wooden rule here. There is no one-to-one correlation. Isaac did not commit ‘every’ sin that plagued his father Abraham. Nor did Solomon repeat every evil thing that David did. Were there sinful patterns in these families?  Of course there were. However, there was no one-to-one correlation. This is similar to the issue the disciples raised with Jesus concerning the man born blind (John 9). Toward the end of Ezekiel 18 the author puts an even finer point on the matter. He continues: 
“The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. “But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. “All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:20-23) 
I have met so many Christians who are in bondage over these issues and I wish I had the time to walk every one of them through this chapter. Some are terrified because they are divorced, or alcoholic, or irresponsible with money, and they ‘know’ that their sin is going to plague their children and their children’s children for three to four generations. Others sit on the opposite end of the equation and look at the sins their parents and grandparents committed and fear that they are generation three or four, and not five (the generation that gets the automatic get out of sin free card according to the erroneous reading of the text), and thus have no hope. However, if they are in generation 5 for divorce, they may only be generation two for alcoholism... Do you see how oppressive this is? 
Another major problem with this adoption anxiety is its tendency to perpetuate what I call the sin blame game. If we represented the anxiety view in the form of a syllogism, it would read as follows:  
The sins of the fathers continue for 3-4 generations 
I am generation 2 for ‘this’ sin 
Therefore, my children and I ‘will’ continue the cycle. 
Thus, according to this logic, if I am cursed, then I am neither able to resist, nor am I responsible for my sin; I’m just doing what I am destined to do. Or, one could ask, why should I employ biblical discipline with my adopted children (or my biological children for that matter) since the methods in the Bible are impotent in the face of generational sin? This kind of thinking would almost require us to rewrite several Bible verses: 
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him (unless he has a generational curse). (Proverbs 22:15)
Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod And rescue his soul from Sheol (unless he has a familiar spirit).  (Proverbs 23:13-14)
The rod and reproof give wisdom , But a child who (has been adopted from the wrong family tree) brings shame to his mother.  (Proverbs 29:15)
The sin blame game also affects the way many Christians view themselves. There are middle-aged men with defeatist attitudes because they struggle with sin that they attribute to their biological parents who gave them up for adoption. Thus, in a society where an overwhelming number of men struggle with pornography, some men believe the root of their struggle is generational sin passed down from their biological parents whom, in some cases, they have never even met! What about the millions of other men? What about men whose fathers did not have the struggle? 
I am not arguing that there is never a family issue here, but I am saying that family issues are no excuse. My adopted sons are going to struggle with many of the same issues as do other men in our society. They will have to avert their eyes from scantily clad young women; they will have to resist attractive ads for alcohol and the allure of drugs.  These are realities in our society. My adopted children are also likely wrestle with their identity later in life (as do my biological children). They may have tough days ahead as they try to figure out why they were “given up” (a term adoptive parents despise) by their biological parents. They are going to have to be disciplined, corrected and redirected. However, if I am looking for generational curses and/or familiar spirits behind every conflict, I’ll go crazy and start telling people DON’T ADOPT... THEY COME WITH BAGGAGE! 
Another issue that must be addressed here is parenting. I would not suggest that all adoptive parents who have significant issues with their approach to parenting, however this issue cannot be ignored. Our churches are filled with parents who haven’t a clue when it comes to child training and discipline. As a result, many parents who are reaping the harvest of their bad parenting assign the blame in the wrong place. Sometimes all of us have to look in the mirror when we want to find the root of certain behavioral patterns in our children’s lives. I know I do. 
Children who are indulged will be spoiled and ill-mannered whether they were adopted or not. Children who do not have clear boundaries and consistent correction will be out of control even if they have the best ‘genetic’ and/or spiritual background. We must take this into account when we hear adoption horror stories.  Remember, most of the little tyrants we see driving their parents crazy in the grocery store were not adopted. However, they certainly inherited their tendencies from their parents... Adam and Eve. 
Some people have suggested that the main problem with adoption is that we don’t know the name of the particular spirits we need to oppose or ‘bind’ in our children’s lives. To that I say, which Jesus are we serving? The Jesus whom I serve is able to save to the uttermost. 
“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1John 1:5-7) 
My adopted children (like my biological children) need to be saved. Jesus’ blood is the only thing that can wash them clean. He turns men into new creatures, causes  old things to pass away and be replaced by the new  (2 Cor 5:17). My Jesus does not save in sections; he  saves completely. 
My biggest concern with this adoption anxiety is that it seems to suggest that we should limit the offer our home, our hearts and our help to children whom we know will give us minimal difficulty. “I’ll take the one who will comply, but you can keep the one who may struggle with rebellion or identity in an institution, or with non-Christians who are better equipped to minister to them.” I know this is not what we mean. However, this is often the end result of our adoption anxiety. In the end, there are only a few guarantees when it comes to adoption: 
1.  I can guarantee you that adoption will cost you something: If you choose to adopt a child it will cost you time and treasure.
2.  I can guarantee you that adopted children will have struggles: Every adopted child will struggle in some way with his or her place in your family and in God’s plan. 
3.  I can guarantee you that adoption will teach you more about salvation than just about anything you could do: I will never look at passages like Ephesians 1:5 the same way again. 
4.  I can guarantee you that adoption will change a child’s life: We will not know this side of heaven how adoption has impacted both Elijah, Asher and Judah.  However, we know their lives have been set on an entirely different trajectory than they would have been had God not seen fit to send them home with us. 
5.  I can guarantee you that adoption is an indispensable pro-life act: I do not believe that every Christian is called to adopt children. However, I do believe that it is critical for us to give young women alternatives when we plead with them to give their babies life. 

1 comment:

  1. Very good article Bethany. It is a topic that needs to be brought to the forefront and rightly understood.