Anyone who's studied deliverance ministry will have run into the concept of generation curses or generational sins: stuff supposedly done by one's ancestors that causes their descendants problems. Entire books are devoted to this topic. Even cutting-edge Courtrooms of Heaven proponents are talking about having to clear up the sins of our ancestors to get a guaranteed verdict in our favor.
There are stories of inexplicable deliverance issues with no obvious root in conscious memory, or health issues that seem to plague multiple generations of the family tree, or rumors of ancient family troubles echoing into the present... that sort of thing. The typical generational curse testimony then outlines the cure that finally worked. Unfortunately, the cure can be ... tedious, difficult, and disgusting. Some say we need to go through the list of hundreds of sins our parents' combined lineage is likely to have done, and then (as some books teach) repent for each one, maybe seven times each! Even if the Holy Spirit points out specific issues (the preferred approach), it's still spiritually necessary (apparently) to go through those ancient sins and mistakes and depravities, and then individually repent for and renounce each one, possibly several times.
But is this real? The Lord said He doesn't punish for previous generations' transgressions (Ezekiel 18). The Bible also tells us to look forward and FORGET the past (Philippians 3:13). Curry Blake makes a compelling argument for not going "digging" in the past (our own or our ancestors'). "If you believe it exists, you have to jump through that hoop," is the general warning issued by those who follow the Curry Blake model of healing and deliverance. In addition, many spiritually active people point out that digging can cause worse mental difficulties and worse spiritual trouble. Of course, so can just trying to cast stuff out that won't budge - I asked one "no digging" guy to try deliverance on me, and felt sick for days afterward with no results.
That said, I PREFER the no-digging model. I prefer if people can just do what Jesus did, and kick enemy spirits out without asking questions, doing extensive inner healing ministry over weeks/months/years, asking clients to write out a 10 page intake form asking about every sin or vice you or your ancestors ever committed.
But unfortunately, the no-digging people have so far been unable to help me get rid of my deliverance problem. They can't even help me figure out why I have trouble connecting with and trusting and hearing from God. They would tell me to renew my mind, but not be able to offer me tools for fixing my mind so it could be renewed!
So, for me, it was back to counselors, Sozo, Heartsync, Liebusts, etc. - all ministries that do "digging" into both personal history and generational issues. But the digging bugged me. I did some digging on digging.
Testimony: There are lots of testimony of no-digging working, but also lots of testimony about digging working where no-digging failed. I talked to friends who spoke of generational problems who said that clearing generational stuff helped them, or helped people with otherwise difficult healing/deliverance issues.
Scripture: As much as Ezekiel 18 declares God doesn't apply the death penalty across generations, there are Bible passages such as Leviticus 26:40, or Isaiah 65:6-7, or Lamentations 5:7, which support the existence of some kind of generational effect.
Ezekiel 18 is still a big deal, though (read it if you don't know what it says). I pointed out Ezekiel 18 to a digging-style counselor once, and the person suggested generational curses do exist because other forces and powers hold onto those things, not God Himself.
So I asked God if generational baggage could really affect us. It occurred to me one way to find out is to look at the physical world, which is a reflection of the spiritual world.
First off, one of the more obvious examples of physical world generational curses makes the medical news all the time. We've probably all heard stories of entire families suffering with the same diseases, often striking at around the same age, generation after generation - yes, even Christian families. DNA analysis uncovers more and more problematic genetic patterns every year. Most families, in fact, seem to have something like this; no wonder doctors suggest doing pre-emptive diagnostics "if your close family has a history of such-and-such disease." Wouldn't this qualify as a generational curse? It's not obvious to most of the world that this might be a result of a sin, but had a family been perfect and sin-free, undoubtedly there would not be a curse - right?
There are also epigenetics, which is environmental and affects how genes are "read" and processed by the body. These effects really can cause one generation's problems to cascade down through to future generations. Children of Holocaust victims are more likely to suffer from anxiety, for example. Recent mice studies suggest a famine can cause health troubles even in grandchildren who have normal diets. It's becoming increasingly clear that effects of malnutrition, stress, pollution, overeating and such can appear in later generations. One generation's mistakes, or the curses laid on it, may echo down through the ages.
What about in other ways? Are there other generational issues less easy to see? I looked around and realized the effects of our deeds really are written on the Earth. For example, slavery. Suppose a family (Roman, American, whatever) owned slaves and abused them to get maximum work and offspring (more slaves) from those slaves. The family then gained wealth and prestige and moved up the social ladder. Over the following generations, you BET the imprint of these experiences would remain. The slave owning family's descendants would probably (not always) retain at least some of the advantages of wealth, prestige, nutrition, education, and possessions (such as land, home, furniture, art); the slaves would probably (not always) retain a legacy of poor education, poverty, broken family bonds, severe emotional damage, and physical issues (thanks, epigenetics).
Someone corresponding with me in email also put it this way: "For example, if my [Asian] ancestors, 400 years ago, had the decision to emigrate to the United States or Albania - that decision in of itself has lasting consequences for later generations for better or for worse. It's simply a fact of life - just like we can't say why wasn't I born in a rich family versus a poor one, etc."
So, if the physical world retains the effects of the behavior of our ancestors (good or bad, victim or villain or hero), then it seems likely the spiritual world retains a record as well. Maybe we aren't guilty of owning slaves or bribery or cheating or theft or giving the enemy access to our family in exchange for something, but it could be that we got many of our advantages in life thanks to some ancestor having done those things. For example: it seems quite plausible a person may have gotten into Harvard in part because they went to a good school, in part because the parents were well-educated and wealthy, in part because an ancestor was a crooked lawyer and amassed a fortune. And the flip side? Maybe we weren't directly burdened with horrific hardships or abuse or poverty or famine or an agreement with the enemy, but it could be that we got the aftereffects of those things down through the ages. For example: Maybe a grandparent was alcoholic; even if that addiction was stopped somewhere, it could be a family fortune was lost as a direct result.
Yes, the effects tend to ripple on. Even in Christian families.
God Himself apparently does not charge the next generation with the sins of the parents, but I think, based on scientific observation, that it is a safe assumption that spiritual conditions - and definitely physical conditions - will tend to be inherited.
Is it God's intention that bad things drag on across generations? I actually DON'T THINK SO. Jesus came and broke the power of curses, but I think we now have to go out and apply His work to break curses that we see. I think that as we go forward in His authority and overwhelming compassion for the suffering, more and more of the old stuff will be broken off, AND we will learn more and more how not to get trapped in the cobwebs in the first place. The Blood of Jesus is the powerful spilled blood crying out for our SALVATION and HEALING! I think His Kingdom will put an end to the current unfortunate "reality" of generational curses. (But not blessings. The blessings, I think, are supposed to stay.)
So, I would argue these generational effects exist. The new question becomes, do we need to dig them up in order to be free of them - or can we bypass them and just command healing and deliverance without addressing what our ancestors did, and blow through them with faith and prayer? It could be the no-digging model is correct in their methodology: ignore the past and just deal with the present to get the right future. Here, I'm not sure.
And now that I pray on it, it occurs to me maybe it depends on how deeply lodged the issue is in our soul/mind/emotions/subconscious. Are we unknowingly using it? Is it hooked into our psyche, our possessions, our self-image, our identity? Is there enough faith to blow past that barrier to knock loose the enemy hold?
I THINK (just a guess) God would PREFER we had enough faith to heal and get healed, deliver and get delivered, WITHOUT digging. Maybe Jesus had to do some traveling in the spirit before doing a big deliverance (a topic for another essay, something I read in Regions of Captivity by Anna Ferrell Mendez), but probably He didn't need to make people confess of their ancestors' sins (it's never mentioned, anyway). If we had His faith and His overpowering love, love so pure it disarms our defenses and pours light into the dark places of the soul, love so powerful it enables us to throw out heirlooms, traditional family obligations, family and racial identity, and everything that carries our benefits/curses, then maybe - maybe - we wouldn't need the digging. If we are so engulfed in love that our spiritual chains dissolve, we would be free, without digging. Then digging would, in fact, just get in the way and act as a block (as Curry Blake argues). We'd just be healed!
Could we be freed of the clinging chains of trouble and torment this way? Could we just cast off our learned prejudices, blinders, subconscious pride, or old resentments, bitternesses, and feelings of inadequacy? Or is it a chicken-and-egg problem? Until we recognize and repent for our old family iniquities (back to digging!), how do we even know the traces of old iniquities are there? Or, how can we muster the strength and wisdom to break free of a family prejudice, except that it is shown to us by, say, God? How could a family founded on (say) racism ever come to the realization of the problem, but for God? How could a rich man ever be able to sell everything, even when Jesus told him to do so? How can a broken, worried human being, short of cash and burdened with responsibilities, possibly be able to do the impossible?
"What is impossible with men is possible with God." What if digging is one of many avenues that God gives us to find freedom? At least unless Jesus Himself, with His full power and presence, shows up in your life and obliterates everything that isn't wholly eternally wonderful.... But not everyone gets that experience, and we can't sit and do nothing in expectation of it.
I doubt we should place too much emphasis on generational curses until it becomes absolutely clear we have to. By all means, go through the 20-minute street ministry thing first. By all means, cast out spirits and command healing first. Get seasoned pros to do it. Press in and keep asking, seeking, knocking. Most of all, build up the relationship with Jesus, talk to Him, pray, ask Him questions, worship Him, rejoice in Him, trust Him, walk with Him.
By the way, here's a very rough outline of what most generational curse deliverance authors say. I hope I'm getting this right. It's sort of a compilation:
The overall idea is to do something like this. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal any kind of sin, personal or generational, affecting your situation. Then take any issues that come to mind and go through them, confessing each one as a sin; repent for it, renounce it, refuse to do it any longer, forgive the people involved, break off the sin, ask God's forgiveness, plead the Blood of Jesus Christ, and ask for cleansing AND healing of yourself and your bloodline. Whew!
If the problem involved receiving objects or benefits, you may need to renounce or get rid of those objects or dedicate them to Jesus instead, somehow.
The lists of likely sins are very loooooooooooong (some deliverance books provide a list of stuff... it just covers pages and pages). A person may even need to go through them a number of times, even, like circling the walls of Jericho. At least, that's what someone told me.... Yeah did I mention I prefer "no-digging"??
As usual, I encourage people to do their own research and prayer!