S (Scripture): Ezekiel 18:14 “But suppose he in turn has a son who notices all the sins his father commits, considers them, and does not follow his father’s example…17 refrains from wrongdoing, does not engage in usury or charge interest, carries out my regulations and follows my statutes. He will not die for his father’s iniquity; he will surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practices extortion, robs his brother, and does what is not good among his people, he will die for his iniquity.”
O (Observation): A popular notion in Ezekiel’s time was that the sinfulness of the father (given a patriarchal society, mother’s were not given consideration) could be visited upon the son (again, patriarchal society). So, many in the Hebrew faith began to believe that the children might be paying for the sins of the parents.
How? By being punished through oppression, sickness, and death.
But no longer is that supposed to be the way they should think, now that God has spoken through Ezekiel. Each generation is set free from the parents’ iniquity. God makes no connection between the sins of a child to the sins of the parents. Will both still sin at times? Yes. But will the child get a clean slate? Absolutely!
A (Application): The flood waters in Columbia, SC, and throughout the great Palmetto State have arisen and destroyed many homes, and in some cases, have caused injuries and death.
A friend of mine was sitting in the stylist’s chair, about to get his hair cut, when he heard: “Can you believe God is sending these floods?!?!” (That might not be the exact quote, but the sentiment is there.)
I hear people blame the sins of our parents for the direction our country is going. Or they take a look at our sins, and worry that we will put our children in a worse position with God. Every time I hear someone say that we are reaping what we sow, I come back to these verses from Ezekiel.
Will God visit the repercussions of our sins upon our children? I think not.
Does sin exist? Yes. It does. But we are not to blame our parents or grandparents. God gives each new generation a fresh start. And in baptism, God looks on us and starts with: “You, my child…you are me daughter / my son, with you I am well-pleased.”
We are brought into a relationship with Christ, with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who wishes LIFE for us, not death. We can look at the world around us and see how we can participate in bringing life and sustenance where death and devastation have taken place. We can do that, because God equips us to do that work. And some times, rather than caring for our neighbor, or creation, we will be the recipients of the care of others.
Christ’s death and resurrection allows us the space to seek forgiveness and for each new generation to start fresh. God’s grace brings us wholeness and life. God’s grace exchanges our failures for an abundant life.
In that abundance we can reach out and care for our neighbor. Instead of asking “why” this disaster happened, we are free to ask “what can we do to help?”
Here is one way to help…through the ELCA’s Lutheran Disaster Response. You can Pray, Give, and Connect. I hope you do.
P (Prayer): Lord, your grace washes us clean. You transform our failures into ways that we can reach out to help our neighbors. Please be with all who suffer from the floods in South Carolina, and wherever floods devastate. Amen.