I recently rented Season 1, Episode One of Battlestar Gallactica, a show I have never watched on television but have always been interested in seeing, especially since Barbara Nicolosi, a Hollywood scriptwriter and blogger at Church of the Masses, raved about it here. It's full of complex moral issues, good acting, and even religious themes. In the first episode I watched tonight, it was simply serendipitous that the overarching theme (and one overtly stated) was how the "sins of the fathers are visited on the children," when that is part of the passage that Stephen Smallman focuses on in today's reading.
Like Smallman, I used to fret about the meaning of and justice of this pronouncement in scripture. Shouldn't people be held responsible for their sins, not the sins of others? But his conclusion is the only one that makes sense: God is telling us the nature of the world, as it is, not as it has to be or even as He wills it. He is not punishing our children for our sins but simply stating that our sins have consequences that even run through generations (like the abused child who becomes the abuser). The world may be bent, may be subject to the law of entropy (a tendency toward disorder), yet there are contrary forces at work, whether via common grace or special grace. The Gospel is transformative for all things, because God is at work reconciling to Himself all things (Col. 1:20). It's all about grace in the end.
That's good news. It's good news for people because as bodies age and minds slow it's an assurance that the best of who we are is preserved and the worst transformed in eternity. It's good news for the ordinary landscapes that John Stilgore pedals through as well, that they too will be transformed and not forever bear the consequences of neglect or despoiling done by people or even wild nature, that the land itself and dogs and cats and all the variegated wonder of the animal and plant kingdoms will be preserved, transformed, and brought to fulfillment one day that everything in Creation will be all of what God intended, that once more He can say "It is good."
All of this is a future hope and a present comfort. God is saying what is (sin and it's consequences) but also what He is doing (reversing those consequences through people who love Him). The sins of the fathers may be visited on their children, but thankfully the Love of the Father takes up residence in His people and His world.
[The "40 Days On the Edge" posts are my ruminations in light of Stephen Smallman's devotional entitled "Forty Days On the Mountain," read in conjunction with Harvard Landscape History Professor John Stilgore's "Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places." Both books may be ordered by clicking on them where they are listed in the sidebar under "Current Reading."]