The Bible talks about curses that last for generations. How can a born-again Christian be cursed or have a generational curse on them if God says you are cleansed white as snow without spot or blemish? Would not that be a new beginning? Being born again means nothing old, nothing attached? Would not Jesus' death have cancelled all of the past when he said it is finished?
You are correct in assuming that a born again Christian is not affected by a curse in a literal sense. But there is another way to read such passages. Apart from technical curses, the impact of sinful behavior is frequently generational—passed on from parents to their children, often for many generations. This is not by God’s design, but is just the psychological reality of living in a sinful world. Our actions have consequences that can last not just years, but sometimes for centuries.
As an example, many studies have shown that those who are abused as children frequently grow up and become abusers themselves, especially if they are not removed from the abusive situation or receive treatment. This can happen on a societal level as well. Slavery is a good example. The horrible sin of slavery—something that has been called America’s “original sin,”—has followed us to this day. It wasn’t a curse from God in a technical sense, but the sins of our ancestors had such a toxic effect on culture and society and so corrupted human decency and Christian values, that we remain deeply broken because of it.
The good news is that what is true of sin is doubly true of acts of love and generosity. Back in the Ten Commandments, we read in Exodus 20:5-6 that God will punish sin for three to four generations but will reward loving action for a thousand generations. That is re-iterated in Deuteronomy 7:9. Our sin has consequences for ourselves, but also for our loved ones and other innocents. It’s a hard cycle to break and can take generations or even centuries to heal. But the Bible reaffirms that mercy, justice, and lovingkindness are stronger still and send showers of blessing for far, far longer.
Rev. Anne Robertson
Massachusetts Bible Society