"You shall not bow down to (idols) or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of their fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." (Deuteronomy 5:8-10 New International Version
I have no doubt that children do suffer for their parents’ sins. That makes me very sad. As a man with children and as one who disciples other men, I offer a couple of thoughts:
* Though I may suffer for the sins of my father, I do not believe I am accountable for his sins. I am accountable for my own sins before a loving father, who happens also to be a consuming fire.
* As a deterrent to sinful behavior, I understand that when I sin my children will suffer. Recently, I read these words of a young woman: "When my father deserted us, I didn’t just lose my dad. I lost my mom, too, because she had to work two jobs and I hardly ever saw her."
* When appropriate, it is biblical to confess the sins of our fathers (e.g. racism, neglect, fear, dishonesty). Nehemiah 9:2 says, "Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners as they confessed their own sins and the sins of their ancestors."
* I encourage men to ask God for mercy to be released from any bondage resulting from their parents’ sins.
* Forgiving parents is crucial. If you can’t forgive a parent, you can’t make real progress toward healing. Jesus was clear: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15)
My children are not responsible for my sins, and I pray that whatever suffering they endure from my bad choices is short. All children and all fathers stand before God. We all need Jesus, the Savior and Lord of the world. "Lord, be merciful to us and our children…"