There is an interest in our ancestry that has been fueled by the internet’s ability to do quick and yet comprehensive research into our pasts. To be sure it would be interesting to discover if there was someone in our lineage who was famous, influential, or made a significant mark on history. We think it would be a comfort to know if anyone was great in our genealogy. I suppose we all have a natural curiosity about who we may be related to.
Of course, you never know what may be hiding under those unturned rocks of yesteryear. People do not brag if they discover great-granddaddy was hung for being a horse thief or great-great-grandma was a madam of a brothel. Sometimes our past is like a Clint Eastwood movie, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Family certainly plays a major role at influencing us as we are nurtured in the home. When you consider the home life of your parents, and their parents, we are in some measure a composite of the past practices, in belief and behavior of our families.
This is the point being made by Moses when he warns that God will visit “the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” Exodus 34:7. Moses is not saying children will be held accountable for their parents’ iniquities. His words are a caution to parents that their pattern of belief and behavior will influence successive generations. If those patterns are sinful it will adversely affect their children who adopt the same practices.
This is clearly the case because Ezekiel says,“The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself” Ezekiel 18:20. The prophet Ezekiel makes the point that we each are responsible for our own sins and not those of a family member from the past or even the present.
When our forefathers migrated to this country they came for a host of reasons. Some cam to make their fortunes, others in search of a piece of land they could call their own, and still others to worship as they believed. While I recognize those early migrants came for many different reasons, the influence of the Christian faith on those settlers cannot be denied.
Our country was founded in the midst of a Christian consensus and our forefathers had come to enjoy the freedom to worship as they pleased. This truth can most clearly be seen in that document we call the supreme law of our nation, the Constitution of the United States. When those representatives of our fledgling nation wanted to insure personal liberties free from government interference they adopted the first ten amendments to the Constitution known collectively as the Bill of Rights.
The First Amendment was considered to be a cornerstone for the other nine. The first words to the First Amendment read, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is known as the Establishment Clause. I think that it is significant that when the United States Congress sought to protect individual freedoms, they sought to protect the freedom of worship first.
It is well documented that our nation’s history and traditions were founded within a commonly held Christian worldview. Christianity has had a profound influence in our history and our culture. For good or ill, our nation is still considered a Christian nation by other countries. Some may even think they are Christians merely because they are born in America.
Just as we do not inherit, and are thus responsible, for the faults of our ancestors, neither did we inherit their faith. While God does have children, it has been said He does not have any grandchildren. Each generation is confronted with the claims of Christ, and each generation must decide for themselves if they are willing to commit their lives to Him in faith. No one can trust Christ for you. Each of us must decide whether to trust Jesus with our sins and our lives or not.
Being born in America does not make anyone a Christian any more than being born in a hospital makes one a doctor. It is not important which branch you are in the family tree; it makes an eternal difference whether you are a member of the family of God.