The Sins of the Fathers (and mothers too)

Your parents were sinful. Both of them. They were flawed, broken, not just imperfect, but actually capable of wickedness and wrong…that is what the Bible tells us. Many people who had good loving parents have a problem with that. “My mom was a saint, everyone knew it!” “My dad is my hero!” Oftentimes people over-revere one parent and blame the other. Yes, God also tells us to honor our parents and to care for them when they are old. But if you cannot accept that they are sinful then you can’t really grow. Many of the people I know who are smart and clearly committed to “Christianity” yet do not grow, or distort some aspects of Jesus while rejecting others, seem to have this in common: they can’t see their parents as sinners. As a result they can’t grow.

Why do you need to believe this to grow? The most difficult sins are the ones that you did not consciously choose. The ones that have been passed down from your parents and grandparents and their parents before them. Racism, classism, selfishness, emotional immaturity, disrespecting personal boundaries…these are some of the things that get passed down. When your parents, who love you, and whom you love, do these things, it does not seem wrong. Certain sinful things can actually seem loving to you: abused children equate punishment with devotion. People who remain in abusive relationships often feel that the abuse is evidence of how much the abuser cares for them. In a way it’s true. If your parents beat you, it was because you were theirs and not someone else’s child. But it does not mean that the beatings were right, or good. In the same way if your parents had certain attitudes about people of certain ethnicities you probably feel the same way. Whether we are shaped by nature or nurture, our parents are both. As a result they pass on the sins we don’t even see as sins.

Growing in Jesus means you will have problems with your parents sin. It will hurt you and shame you and frustrate you. Growing in Jesus also means you will honor and care for your parents just the same even though their sins pain you. Treating them, not as their sins deserve, but as Jesus deserves. Their sins won’t be an abstract idea, but a painful reality of the truth of God’s Word, and the depth of His compassion.


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