Dear Parishioners and Friends,
Here’s a quick test. Read this and then briefly consider how it makes you feel about the next generation:
The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34)
Does this sound like good news? Not if you think about how iniquity gets passed to the third or fourth generation–and none of of are free of iniquity.
But look again
But notice that Moses also said that God gives his mercy to “thousands” — that means a thousand generations. That far outweighs any judgment that can last three or four generations. It also says that God is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. This is the primary message of the passage–the positive word that we need to hear over the negative.
Why we hold onto the negative
But most people who hear this passage focus on the negative, and this is a pattern that can define your life, keeping you from hearing and holding onto the promise of the gospel at every turn.
Here’s why. Psychological studies show us that as a survival instinct, we are seven times more likely to remember something negative than something positive. This is good when you need to remember, for example, that fire can be dangerous. But here’s the problem–it also means that it takes seven affirmations to overcome one negative statement.
That’s why we tend to replay negative thoughts and it’s so hard to live with hope. The enemy of your soul — who is also called the Accuser — knows this, so he will send word’s of condemnation your way. He knows that a Christian who feels condemned will be weak and ineffective, so he sends negative words that speak louder in your head than the gospel.
How to hold on to the promise
There’s a simple solution, which is that you make a point to preach the gospel to yourself each day. Repeat for yourself Scriptures that affirm the truth about who you are in Christ. This will put a spring in your step and give you courage to press forward in a fallen world, because that is your high calling in the gospel.
And consider this in light of the passage quoted above: Moses’s words, which are magnified in Christ, proclaim that you, as a single individual, can change your entire family tree going forward. You can send forth blessings that last a thousand generations. Will you open the door of faith to that blessing? Jesus has gained mercy for you that you could never earn for yourself. (Repeat that seven times!)