The other day I was reminded of a song recorded by the artist then known as Cat Stevens. Perhaps you remember "Cat's Cradle," too.

 The lyrics trace a father – son relationship, which begins with dad not having much time for his son and ends with the now older son's not having time for his father. "It occurred to me, my son is just like me" is the singer's conclusion. As they watch children grow, parents are eager to note family resemblances that are positive. "She has her mother's eyes." "You can see his father in his expression," and so on. In addition to genetic inheritance, however, there is also behavioral inheritance that comes as children observe that of their parents. When Abram gets himself into trouble and lies to both a pharaoh and to a king to protect himself, should it come as a surprise to see his son Isaac do the same when he is grown? It is bad enough that so many children are being raised in single-parent families or in families where the marriage is toxic. But the poverty or abusive relationships that these children observe is not the only downside. They draw their own behavioral conclusions from what they observe and experience and with that data they formulate their own conclusions about the same or opposite sex. As children or teens, perhaps you said more than once, "I'm never going to raise my kids like that," but then the day came when you found yourself using the same words, doing the same things as your parent(s) did with you! How many generations are then affected because one person made a bad choice for a spouse? Or had a series of unhappy marriages?

Now consider that a congregation is also a family. What behaviors has a younger generation learned by watching its elders concerning giving patterns, attitude toward its pastor, attitude toward outsiders, attitude toward Bible study? Does it ever occur to a younger generation that they might have "caught" those behaviors by watching a previous generation? Does it ever occur to an older generation that perhaps one reason that they don't have a younger generation in their church is that the younger ones don't want to mimic those behaviors?

Sinful behavior is hard to change on one's own. Confession and absolution provide a first step for personal reformation. Christ on the cross gives confidence that such actions will be graciously met with God's abundant forgiveness. And God bless the congregation which the Holy Spirit leads to realize that they, too, need to change by that same Spirit's power! What a blessing it is whenever Christ looks upon His children and notes that, in some small way, they have become just like him in love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.