Ancient Sin

November 9, 2017

Ellen and I are away on vacation this week.  We’re staying in a cabin in the woods… literally.  No Wi-Fi, no phone, no text signal, no television, no radio…  The closest “conveniences” are about 4 miles away at a lodge.  Did I say we are staying at Tygart (first syllable pronounced like the “Ti” in tiger) State Park in WV about 50 minutes south of Morgantown?  Well, we are.  We like to go to places that are off season and isolated.  No people around.  No hustle and bustle.  Just us.  Pictured is our cabin and the surrounding woods and reservoir through the trees.



Yesterday we went to “historic” Philippi, WV.  Why “historic” you ask.  Well… you may not know that Philippi is the location of the first “land battle” in the Civil War.  We were in a small restaurant in town and I asked if there was a battle field nearby.  I was informed that the battle took place right on main street, i.e., we were sitting on the battlefield.  Philippi is small enough that you can drive from one end to the other in less than a minute if you hit THE red light on time.  It does have a Sheetz and a Subway, so they have that going for them.  The Barbour County courthouse that sits in the center of town is picturesque and somewhat awe-inspiring.



South of Philippi about 4 miles, in a small country church cemetery, we found the grave markers pictured below.  They are Ellen’s great, great, great grandparents’ and her great, great grandparents’ graves.  We didn’t come down here to find them.  It was just a small diversion that I didn’t think would come to fruition.  For those who do genealogical work you know that these things are often VERY difficult to locate!  It took 1/2 an hour to find the sites at the local library and 10 minutes once we found the cemetery; we were very fortunate.  It further amazes me that they are my granddaughter’s great, great, great, great, great grandparents.  Whew!

great, great:



great, great, great:



I was reminded of a question that is often asked in confirmation class by students; “Why do we have to carry with us the sin of Adam and Eve?  We aren’t the ones who ate the fruit!”  That of course, is a great question.  I usually answer something like this:  Why do you have the hair color you have?  Why do you have the eye color you have?  Why do you have the mannerisms you have?  Why do you have the values you have?  Primarily because they came from those who came before you.  You are who you are because of those who preceded you, i.e., your parents, your grandparents, etc.  Why is it that alcoholics often had alcoholic parents?  Why is it that abusers often were abused or witnessed their mother being abused?  Some would say regarding alcoholism that there is a genetic predisposition toward addiction.  Others would say that if abuse is modeled for us then abuse will be our “norm.”  I admit this is a little bit more complicated for those who have been adopted, but even they carry many of the traits of their biological ancestors, they just may not know it.  Again, the short of it is this;  we are who we are because of our ancestors.

Turn with me for a moment to the 10 Commandments listed in Exodus 20 4“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

What do you suppose it means that God “punishes” several generations because of the sins of one particular person, or several “particular persons”?  Could it be that because of the sin of my great, great grandfather, God is sitting in heaven eagerly waiting to fire thunderbolts of destruction at me and my family? (Some people think that.)  If so, that is a demoralizing and incomprehensible thought.  And yet, there it is in black and white… well okay, red and blue.

Allow me to suggest an alternative view.  Could it be that the sins of one person, in this case a father, can taint or stain the values and the very life of a whole generation?  I’m sure that’s possible (and even likely); simply ask the children of violent, abusive alcoholics.  Might it be that it could take several generations to “filter or strain” the damage out of a family?  Not only “might it be” but it is VERY LIKELY the case!  Get it?  The sins of one father being carried through to the following generations.

One of my favorite questions to ask people goes something like this; “How are you like your father or mother?”  You would be amazed at the facial expressions this question elicits!  Partly, I suspect, because many of us don’t like to think of ourselves as being like our parents.  And for others they have simply never thought about it.  The truth is… if you were raised by your biological mother and father you have many similar qualities… whether you like it or not.

Well okay… what do we do if those qualities are less than desirable?  I mean what do we do if we struggle with addictions, unforgiveness, anger, impatience, selfishness, etc. and they are simply part of our psyches?  Maybe we were raised with those values and we struggle to leave them behind.  Seriously what do we do?

I’m fairly sure that the answer to this is much more complicated and difficult than what I am going to address here.  That being said, there is a thing called “redemption.”  Hallelujah for that!  We can actually be redeemed from our brokenness!  We don’t have to live as slaves to sin and rebellion against God.  There is Jesus, there is Jesus, there is Jesus!

Hebrews 9:  12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

Jesus allowed His blood to be shed so that stained humanity might be cleansed.  Please do not misunderstand me.  I know that leaving behind generations of sin and rebellion is not easy.  I have known too many people who have BEGGED God to remove certain sin from their lives and God seems to have been silent.  I don’t know why. For many of us we will not be fully redeemed from “death” until we enter Glory.  But we need not succumb to the sins of our past or the sins of our fathers’ past.  For those who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, God does not hate you, nor is He gleefully shooting arrows at you.  Are there generational sins in your life that need to be purchased/redeemed by the blood of Jesus?  Are there?  If so… you are not alone!



2 thoughts on “Ancient Sin

  1. I like this one a lot. It reminds me a lot when I was doing a lot of my Geaneolgy dragging my wife thru the cemeteries. Some times she wasn’t to happy doing that. But she got used to it!!!

  2. Very cool Bill. Tygart Lake is beautiful, but this time of year they drain the reservoir to be really for the spring rain and the snow melt. Now it is really really low.
    Philippi is an interesting place and a good place for mission trips. You should check out the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, in Weston. AKA The Weston State Hospital. On 71 Asylum Drive Weston, WV.
    It is probably closed now until spring.

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