Everyone deserves a chance

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Motunrayo Alaka

By Motunrayo Alaka

*The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, “What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, 
And the children’s teeth are set on edge’? “As I live,” says the Lord God, “you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. (Ezekiel 18:1-3 NKJV)

The proverb above was popular in Israel. It was so well repeated that the Bible mentioned it in Jeremiah 31:29-30 and Lamentations 5:7. There is evidence in Bible history and scientific research to support it too.

Several factors are responsible for how closely a child resembles the parents in character. One is biology. Behavioural traits are transferable from parents to children. The second factor is sociology. Human beings are a product of their upbringing, environment, history, exposures and culture. This explains repeated cycles of wealth or poverty from one generation to another. The final factor is choice. When a child becomes mature he or she can follow their parents’ footsteps or live differently.

Conversations about children of corrupt leaders of Nigeria (past and present) have been topical for a while. Late Sani Abacha, whose unbelievably humongous stolen wealth has continued to surface and shock Nigerians to the marrow, comes to mind. Another example is the executed notorious bandit—Lawrence Anini—who was a terror to Benin City in the 80s. The conclusion is mostly that if the parents stole, the children must be thieves. Or if the parents misbehaved then, one must expect the same of the children. 

Like I said earlier, these accusations have bases in science and sociology. We should not be naïve. I am however asking by the spirit of God that we tread with caution. It is easy to sit on one’s high horse and judge other peoples’ character and reputation. The passage we are examining today is asking us to be careful. Despite the powerful influence of biology and sociology, the scriptures elevate the power of choice.

The Bible is replete with examples of children who lived unconventional lives from their parents whether positive or negative. Samuel was a great prophet of Israel, but his children became reproaches to the temple of God. King Saul was poor in character and love for God, but his son Jonathan was of exemplary character and he loved God dearly. From the lineage of a woman who the Bible records as a sex worker, Rehab, came Jesus, the saviour of the world.

God told Prophet Ezekiel to tell His people that they should assess everyone on their own merits based on the choices they make. The scripture acknowledges that there must be consequences for sins, but it quickly emphasises that no one should be labeled or condemned without evidence of sin. I can confirm that biology and sociology are a potent part of my journey to a better me. For instance, my parents rang it into my ears almost daily – Ranti omo eni t’onse! (Remember the child of whom you are!)  I can however also speak to how I choose daily to be who I am intentionally.  I can attest to the power of choice in the making of a person. I guess you can too. 

The underlying message in Ezekiel 18 is that it is unfair to punish the children for the sins of their parents. I know this is difficult but I ask that we yield to God as we sing the new proverb ordained by heaven that when the fathers eat sour grapes, their children’s teeth will no longer be set on edge automatically. Popular proverbs can be wrong. By Heaven’s standard, everyone deserves a chance.

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