I should be writing. But I’m not. Instead, I’m thinking about God’s grace. I’m thinking about how much He loves us even though we don’t deserve it. Praise, Jesus! No, I haven’t gone and recently done anything outlandishly, except maybe forget to say blessing over my meal before I ate it. I have been spending hours upon hours looking at census records. I should have been writing.
Why, do you supposed that researching family history caused me to think about God’s grace? I’m not real sure, except for the fact that I have some real colorful characters for ancestors. Not all of them pretty.
Excited about a recent discovery, I decided to share my finds with the rest of the clan, you know all the cousins and the cousins’ cousins and so forth. But then a thought occurred. What if they weren’t as excited? What if they, in fact, decided to blacklist and disown me as family? Yeah, some of my ancestors’ behavior was that bad.
Allow me to rabbit trail for a minute. A few weeks ago Pastor Fish (hi, Pastor! You can find him here) preached on Daniel in the Lions’ Den. I’m sure most of you recall the story from Sunday School, but if you need a refresher you can read it in chapter 6 of Daniel. To sum it up King Darius the Mede took over Babylon and at some point in time he decreed that nobody in Babylon could pray to another man or god other than Darius himself. That included all the faithful Jewish exiles like Daniel. Being the faithful servant of God that Daniel was, he continued to pray to the Almighty. Now Darius liked Daniel. A lot. Darius had, of course, been tricked by jealous advisors. He had no choice but to through Daniel in a den full of lions. Well, Daniel left the den unscathed. Overjoyed at the miracle, Darius wrote a decree that every part of his kingdom would fear and revere Daniel’s God (that is a whole blog in itself). But before Darius made the decree, he ordered the men who had tried to get rid of Daniel to be thrown into the lions’ den along with their wives and children.
At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
Why would Darius punish the family along with the fathers? I can only speculate. But when I read that I thought, “wow, the fathers, being heads of household, brought destruction down upon even their children.”
And how does this tie in with my ancestors and grace? In today’s society it’s so easy to get caught up in the blame game. I’m an absent father because my dad left when I was seven. I’m an alcoholic because my mom was. Our neglect and addictions turn into hours upon hours of therapy and Zoloft, if we ever make it that far.
My recent discovery could very well incite anger and discord. I hope not, but the possibility is there. The sins of the fathers kind of thing, Exodus 34:7. I’m sure there lingers a lack of forgiveness where certain people are concerned, both dead and alive. And it has carried on through the generations. The lack of forgiveness depicts a lack of grace. And to be honest, especially where those that have passed on before us are concerned, we have no idea where God brought them before they met their death. But then, I know that I don’t deserve grace, just like some individuals in my family tree don’t deserve grace, but God gave me grace anyway. So should I not offer the same grace? Should I not preach the same grace? Yes, yes!
Back to the men thrown in the den with their families; it is very possible that the women and children were of the same mind and heart of the men. Anyone of them could have been the exception, much like Daniel had been. Just as we should be. It would be easy to blame someone else for my behavior, whether it is something as small as being an alcoholic or as big as a hardened heart festering from unforgiveness. It would be easy to refuse responsibility for my own actions, and initially, a lot easier than falling on my knees in repentance. But it’s not as liberating. Living a life basking in God’s grace, knowing that He loves me even when I don’t deserve it, shatters the shackles of generational bondage.
We do not have to be defined by our fathers’ fathers and their fathers before them. We can find hope in the promise of Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And how do we become in Christ Jesus? John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’ one and only Son.”
You may wonder if I truely know what I’m talking about. Trust me, I do. I’ve had a family member so tormented by generational demons that he killed himself. I believe others continue to experience those demons in some way or another. My prayer is that God will heal them completely.
You know, my cousins’ cousins and all that, they won’t blacklist me, at least I hope not. But there may be a twinge of angst in their hearts, and I don’t blame them, but I pray they grace.