Leaving Legacies: Grafted In
Apr 08, 2018 05:45AM ● Published by Bonnie Lyn Smith
Dear Jesus: If it works this way at all, can you open a window of heaven so that my dad can hear my son play Duke Ellington tonight at the band concert? Can you tell Dad that we dedicate all the songs to him? And can you tell him we are living with big hearts down here to honor who he was on this earth. Thank You. Love, Bonnie
It was time to go to the band concert. I was ridiculously excited. We had friends coming along, and we never have an audience besides ourselves. I knew it meant the world to my son to have them there—and it burrowed deeply into my love bank as well. We don’t have family nearby. All these concerts I knew my father, especially, would love, but he is gone now. I cry almost every time I see my son play the trombone, and especially if it is a jazz piece—and I don’t cry easily.
I know the legacy he is carrying on. I see so much of what I couldn't see until I became the middle generation. Now I see it with increasing clarity:
Blessing passes on as easily as sin, from one generation to another.
This wouldn’t be the appropriate forum for me to discuss the struggles and temptations within my own family, but rest assured, we all have them. They can trickle down to the generations if we don’t stop them. It takes effort, dedication, and deliberate, intentional surrender to Christ. The only power we have to stand against repeating patterns of sin and unhealthy behaviors is the same name by which we receive the free gift of salvation: Jesus.
Romans 10:12-13, ESV
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
So what am I talking about in terms of sins passing on to the generations? Let’s back up to the Old Testament to get a better understanding of who God says He is and what we “inherit” from generations above us and pass on to those after us.
Exodus 20:4-6, ESV
"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
According to this passage in Exodus, one of the five books of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, written by Moses), who does God say suffers iniquity (sin) down the generational pipeline?
“Those who hate me.”
But is that condemnation for future generations who believe in Him? What does He say?
“Showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
How we live now can change everything. Are we teaching our children (even adult children) to love and respect God, to submit to His authority? Are we setting that example? If we are, we are passing on the legacy and the right tools and power source (belief in His holy name) to equip them to love Him and keep His commandments.
Every generation likely intends to pass on the best. Yet old patterns, learned or otherwise, threaten to steal our peace, joy, and focus on Christ. For example, we know so much more now than we did a generation ago about mental health. One of my passions is to teach my children how to be self-aware, get help when needed, and set their priorities in such a way that they can manage stress and know His peace. I want to prevent self-medicating and the lure of unhealthy vices. I bet every parent wants that.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans that one man (Adam) made us sinners, but one man’s (Jesus’s) obedience made us righteous (if we believe in Him).
We are not stuck in the bad patterns of our past or generations before us. Christ has made a way. Isn’t that good news?
Romans 5:19-21, ESV
For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I also find it comforting that the generation I am raising is empowered in Christ to do God’s best for them. My part is to teach how to have a relationship with Him. But the choice to follow Him or not is on them.
In this particular section of Romans (Chapter 11), Paul was speaking to the Gentiles and telling them that, at the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, they have been grafted in as equal receivers of His grace and salvation and that Jews believing in Christ are grafted back in to the faith that originated with them. They came from the original tree.
We can walk away from the legacy, but God is always ready to graft us back in when we choose to believe.
Romans 11:22-24, ESV
Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
My father did more than leave a trombone-playing legacy. He was more than a lover of jazz music. He testified through many cancer battles to the sovereignty of God in his life. Like anyone else, there were flaws and struggles, but I never doubted that Jesus was Lord of his life.
As I filled out a “shout-out” in the school newspaper for my graduating son earlier this week, the message I wanted to get across was that his character and faith are what I value.
Not what school he gets into or attends.
Not his career choice.
Not his achievement or success.
I want him to love his Savior. Period.
What legacy do you want to leave the next generation? What are you keeping from the generation before you, and what are you discarding? Are you making deliberate choices to make sure the next generation knows they, too, are grafted in Christ?
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.