And Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done. For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree. -I Kings 14:22, 23 (KJV)
The headline on Yahoo News seemed to scream at me: “German Grandchildren of Nazis Delve into Past.” As much reading as I have done about World War II, somehow I had never considered how latter generations of those who committed such atrocities have coped with the sins of their grandparents. The article described how the grandchildren of Nazi war criminals are trying to come to terms with the evil their grandfathers did. Rainer Hoess, the grandson of infamous Nazi Rudolf Hoess, described how at the age of 12 he was beaten black and blue by an Auschwitz survivor who found out that he was the grandson of the commandant of that particular death camp. Even now Hoess and others say they struggle with feelings of guilt associated with what their grandfathers did during the war.
I have to contrast this with my grandparents and the legacy they passed on to me. My mother’s father, Harley Northcutt, was a doctor and hard-working member of the community of Menifee County, Kentucky. I never knew him as he died before I was born, yet I love to hear the stories of the good he did for others and his devotion to their health and well-being. My other grandfather, Samuel Birchfield, was a dedicated Christian, family man, farmer, and community leader. He died when I was a child, yet my memories of him are all positive. His faith in Jesus Christ was so firm and committed that it was passed on to me by way of my father, also a devoted follower of Christ.
We have no control over what our parents and grandparents have done. If our parents or grandparents were not followers of Christ, then we can change this pattern to one of devotion and commitment to the Lord. However, if they were godly people of faith we can then carry on this legacy to new levels of commitment to the Lord.
During the period of the kings, the Israelites went through periods of rebellion against God. Rather than change the destructive and ungodly legacy of their parents they continued on in this pattern. The Bible says they even took the depravity of the parents to new depths of ungodliness. Until this pattern was broken the people could not walk in God’s blessings.
Whatever your heritage, be it one of godliness or depravity, it’s up to us to light the way for those who will follow. Let’s commit ourselves anew to shine the light of Jesus Christ so that all who come behind us may see our faith, glorify God, and follow our example – as we have followed Christ.