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 fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
One of my all-time favorite literary classics is Dostoevsky’s redemptive tale called Crime and Punishment, and I can still vividly recall the day on which I read it, and the way it transported my spirit from the dreary London smog to a sanctuary of sunshine. See, it’s trendy nowadays to speak of divine love and justice in the terms expressed here in Exodus 34:6, of God being merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and forgiving sin, but then comes the period. We don’t like to talk of punishment, do we? Crime and Forgiveness—that’s the abridged version of the gospel nowadays. We shutter at the thought that every sin has a punishment inherent to it, that even those secret, closet sins we think no one sees or hears will have ripple effects on others around us, perhaps even for generations.
Had there been a group of modern psychiatrists passing through Eden that day Adam ate the forbidden fruit and covered himself in fig leaves, I can imagine one applauding his ingenuity, drowning the shame in a swath of flattering words, “Wow, Adam—what a sophisticated outfit! Look how much better you are now; this transformation suits you perfectly; well done!” While another would throw a violent fit in protest, “No, Adam—take those off right now! How dare you be ashamed of who you are! You’ve done nothing wrong—you only followed your desires! Anyone who tells you otherwise is bigoted!” But like Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s classic, it’s shame that unravels us, shame that turns us in, shame that thrusts us to our knees in Davidic fashion and cries out to God for mercy, shame that leads to both the redemption of our souls and the redemption of our legacies.
Friend, believe that what you sow today will be reaped by those after you, and listen to that stinging voice of truth that neither flatters nor throws childish tantrums, but always leads you to a better future.