Question: "Can God break the cycle of generational sin?"
Answer: The Lord created families as a beautiful extension of His image. Sadly, in our fallen world we are born in a natural sinful state and can only be redeemed by our Creator. Our natural state is selfish at best and pathological at its worst. Dysfunction comes naturally to us. That is why salvation through Jesus is the key to breaking generational sin. Jesus offers us forgiveness, cleansing of sin, and real, unconditional love (1 John 1:9). Jesus gives His followers the power to love like He does, a love that is filled with grace and compassion. He is our example for how to love rather than loving ourselves or pleasures (John 13:34).
Jeremiah 32:18 says that the consequences of sin from one generation are visited on the next generations. Sin’s destructive consequences hurt the person committing the sin as well as those around him. Each generation has the choice to let their natural inclination repeat the cycle or to find a better way. People often want to break negative cycles but do not know how because the way of thinking they were raised with has confused them. In addition, breaking the cycle can divide families when a person decides to follow Jesus instead of family traditions (see Luke 12:51–53). Some family members will choose Christ and be rejected by their relatives for doing so.
Even without adversity from family members, it can be very difficult to recognize and break sinful patterns in families. The truth is that without Jesus no one can break the grip of sin. In fact, without Jesus humans do not see or comprehend the depth of man’s depravity. Therefore, salvation is the first step to breaking the cycle of generational sin. Then as the new generation begins a family must seek to follow the biblical model for marriage, parenting, and living in order to replace the old, destructive ways. Ephesians 5:21 summarizes God’s instruction for how family members ought to treat one another: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” God instructs family members to honor and love one another, caring for each other’s needs as they care for their own. When family members submit to God’s command, the consequence is peace and fulfillment through loving relationships as God intended.
God created a perfect family system, but sin has damaged it. Our only way to have a family that bears fruit is to follow Christ. Instead of a cycle of pain, the generation that chooses to follow Jesus sows blessing for the generations to come. They will actually begin a cycle of blessing rather than dysfunction. God’s principle is that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7–9). Parents who invest their lives in loving and training their children will see adult children who thrive and walk with Christ (Proverbs 22:6). Children who are loved and valued will honor their parents. But sowing seeds of instant gratification and irresponsibility will reap a harvest of heartache.
Wounds from past hurts can be difficult to overcome. Some believers struggle with generational sin, especially if they are the first generation to follow Christ. It is difficult to honor those who have wounded us and to sacrifice our desires for the good of our children. Often, the old thinking patterns and beliefs cloud judgment. The weapon against being fooled by our natural pride and selfish point of view is the Bible. The Bible transforms our thinking. Knowing facts from the Bible is not the same as surrendering to the truths of the Bible. Victory comes through seeking a relationship with Jesus and examining ourselves to confess areas that need redeeming.
Jesus tells His followers to deny self and live for Him (Matthew 16:24–25). This means we will no longer live for what pleases us, but for what pleases Jesus. Jesus gives wisdom to those who follow Him so that they can make choices to obey in everything (Luke 1:17; James 1:5; 3:17). When we follow Christ, everything will eventually work for our good (Romans 8:28). As a result of our relationship with Christ, we can now act like sons and daughters of God (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 6:17–18). Our true family is the body of Christ, and God is a Heavenly Father to His children. Our choice to follow Christ is the greatest gift we can give to future generations.