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The Sins of the Fathers and the Las Vegas Shooting

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Mark Corbett, Oct 4, 2017.

  1. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Active Member

    May 13, 2017
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    I’m still praying, as I’m sure you are, about the tragedy in Las Vegas. But I’ve also begun to think about what we might learn from it. Terrible events like this raise lots of questions. If those questions drive us to God’s Word for answers, that can be a good thing.

    We know that the shooter’s father was himself a criminal who lived a life of crime. This raises questions and issues about the influence of fathers and how the sins of fathers affect their children.

    Here’s a question: Did mass murderer Stephen Paddock’s father have a negative influence on him which contributed to his evil act?

    Having a father who is a criminal does not automatically turn one into a mass murderer. The shooter’s brother said that they did not know their father (see article here). There does seem to be a link between many mass murderers: an absent father (see articles here and here and here). Did the combination of his father’s bad example and absence play a role in making Paddock more vulnerable to evil influences? Probably. Does this influence somehow exonerate him? Of course not.

    This leads me to some broader questions; questions which likely have relevance to your life and to the lives of everybody you know. How do the sins of fathers affect their children? What hope does God give us?

    You don’t have to study mass murderers to become aware of the influence of fathers. We all have fathers. Off the top of my head I could tell many stories about people I know who have experienced similar or worse deep struggles because of their father’s sins. I bet you could, too.

    So, what does the Bible have to say about this?

    Somehow the Sins of Fathers Affect their Children

    CSB Exodus 34:6-7 Then the LORD passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh-- Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers' wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.

    This passage, and several others like it (Exodus 20:5-6, Numbers 14:18, and Deuteronomy 5:9-10), teach that in some way children suffer for the sins of their fathers. But these verses do not give a lot of detail about how this happens.

    One of the many ways in which children may be affected by their parents’ sins is that children sometimes follow in their parents’ sinful footsteps.

    Abraham and Isaac, Kings and their Fathers

    Out of fear, Abraham deceived the Egyptians into thinking Sarai was not his wife. This nearly ended in disaster for all involved (see Genesis 12:12-20). Later, Abraham repeated this sin in Gerar (see Genesis 20:1-13).

    A generation later, Abraham’s son Isaac was afraid of the Philistines. He deceived them into thinking Rebekah was not his wife. This nearly ended in disaster for all involved. Sound familiar? Isaac imitated his father’s sin.

    Likewise, the kings of Israel often followed the sinful examples of their fathers. Here is an example:

    CSB 1 Kings 15:3a Abijam walked in all the sins his father before him had committed . . .

    Clearly, fathers can influence their children to sin. Some people call this "generational sin". In Ezekiel 18, we find hope for overcoming generational sin. While in seminary, I shared from this passage a number of times while volunteering in ministry with youth who had been imprisoned in the juvenile justice system.

    Hope from Ezekiel 18

    In Ezekiel 18, God corrects a wrong way of thinking that some of the Israelites had. They thought that God judged the children for the parents’ sin. God emphatically says that He does not do this. This teaching is summed up in verse 20:

    NIV Ezekiel 18:20 The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

    Now, when I was sharing from Ezekiel 18 with incarcerated young men, I never stopped at verse 20. That would bring only despair. Most, if not all, of these young men had already begun to follow the bad example of their fathers. In Ezekiel 18, not only is there hope for children with evil parents, there is hope for children with evil parents who begin, early in their life, to follow the evil example:

    NIV Ezekiel 18:21 "But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die.

    Just a few verses later, at the end of Ezekiel 18, we see a sign which points to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Ezekiel 18:30 "Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.
    31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel?

    When we are influenced by the sins of past generations, and even by the sins of our own past, what we need is a new heart and a new spirit!

    By trusting in Jesus we can be born again with a “new heart and a new spirit”. This is true even though we have been influenced by the sins of our ancestors. The blood of Christ can set us free from all that evil influence:

    1 Peter 1:18-19 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

    Hallelujah! That’s really good news. Is there a history of alcohol abuse in your family? The precious blood of Jesus was shed so that those chains can be broken! What if you parents divorced, or never married? Through Christ, you can break that pattern.

    More Good News: In Christ You have been Adopted into God’s Family

    We have been adopted into God’s family, and God has become our Heavenly Father. Our destiny is not to be like our human ancestors:

    NIV Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

    Pastoral Advice

    Becoming like Jesus is a lifelong process. God has promised to complete the good work He began in you (Philippians 1:6). This good work includes getting free from sinful patterns in our family backgrounds. Here is some advice:

    1. Pray specifically for freedom and protection from known areas of sin in your family background when you become aware of them.

    2. Know that God forgives you when you ask for forgiveness in Christ.

    3. Don’t expect instant complete easy victory over sinful patterns which have built up over generations.

    4. Be gracious with others. You don’t know what they may be dealing with from their own family heritage.

    5. There are things we can do which will aide us in growing into Christlikeness and getting free from sinful patterns. Some people call these the “spiritual disciplines”. They are not complicated, but they only work if you actually do them. Here are the big three:

    1. Read and study the Bible.
    2. Pray.
    3. Go to church and be very active in fellowship, worship, and service with other Christians.​

    6. Some family sin patterns are really tough to break. God sometimes helps through other Christians. Ask a mature Christian friend, a pastor, or a Christian counselor to help you.

    7. Only God is our Heavenly Father but, like the Apostle Paul, we can in a limited sense become “spiritual parents” to younger believers in Christ (1 Corinthians 4:15, Galatians 4:19, Titus 1:4). As you grow in Christ, seek opportunities to provide fatherly/motherly love, guidance, support, and care for younger Christians.

    This is a shortened version of a post on my blog.