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“I’ve heard recently of something called a ‘generational curse.’ Is it true that my life will inevitably bear the penalty for the sins of my forebears?” — Gail
“Generational curses” may be found in numerous ancient sources. In the Bible, God pronounced judgment upon the children and grandchildren of those who rejected Him and His law. Such severe warnings served to impress upon the Israelites the seriousness of keeping the Law and of teaching subsequent generations to obey as well (Ex. 20:5; passim.).
Let’s look beyond these warning passages to the immediate question and state the obvious: all of us are products of our upbringing, for better or worse. Unfortunately, many of us have to deal with the baggage of family addictions, scars from abuse and the consequences of not-so-healthy behavior patterns and messages received from our parents and/or other influential family members. As difficult as this legacy from our family of origin may be, we are not, however, necessarily enslaved to it — we can make choices to break patterns and forgive harm done to us.
Scripture repeatedly emphasizes two truths, which are apropos. First, each individual is responsible for his actions. You and I must ultimately bear the consequences of our choices. This principle shows up very early in Scripture (Deut. 24:16; Jer. 31:29-33; Ezek. 18.) The idea of personal choice is ubiquitous in the New Testament, focused primarily on one’s personal faith in and response to God in Christ (John 3:16-21; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9-10).
Second, the idea of an “inherited” curse is antithetical to the Scripture which teaches that in Christ we are “released from the curse” of sin (Rom. 8:1-5ff; Gal. 3:10-14). Even when we are most helpless, we have in Him a hope that does not fail (Rom. 5:1-9) — good news for anyone burdened with unhealed wounds and old baggage.
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