As a prelude I want all of you who read this Discerning the Times to know that it discusses the issues of racism and ancestral sin from the point of view of a white person. I am Scottish and English and am including much of my own experience including that of my southern slave-owning ancestors.
The principles however of how the sins of our ancestors may have negative consequences, decades or even centuries later, and how Jesus Christ can heal them and overcome them are applicable to people of all backgrounds and races.
In one of the recent Discerning the Times posts we have been dealing with the possibility of our own sins of racial prejudice. This is a very personal and frankly painful topic for many of us to engage. It is now my turn to get very personal here.
As I have searched my own heart and asked the Lord to reveal my own sins having to do with racism, I have found that I have never had any such feelings or attitudes of racial prejudice or superiority toward African Americans. I never have nor do I currently.
What I personally had to deal with was a deep hatred and prejudice toward Japanese people. This hatred formed from my having spent my high school years in Korea and later serving as a missionary in Taiwan. Both the Koreans and the Chinese people were treated terribly by the Imperial Japanese before and during the World War II era.
My Father was in the Army Air Core in China during the Second World War fighting the Japanese. I am sure I picked up some of my attitude toward the Japanese from him. So, when God called me a few years ago to take part in teaching on the Holy Spirit in Japan, I really had to struggle with a deep racial hatred that was in me.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, surrounded by wonderful Japanese Christians, I was able to confess this to them, and received forgiveness, healing and release from the bondage to this sin. This was extremely important for me if I was to take part in igniting a move of the Holy Spirit in Japan, and also for healing personally. The means of the working of the Holy Spirit is love, and without that love we are unfit vessels for the Lord’s work.
Slavery Was and Is a Sin.
It is critically important for us to deal with present sins of racism in our own hearts where we need Jesus’ forgiveness. We may also be called to pray for the healing of these wounds that our ancestors inflicted and must also cut off any evil spirits that have come down through the family line that could be affecting us today. As the Body of Christ, we need healing of this, so let us deal with it.
While many of us have ancestral sins concerning other sin issues such as witchcraft, or immorality which must be dealt with, I believe the Lord is calling us to specifically deal with the sin of the enslavement of black Africans at this time.
This sin of enslavement is especially egregious because it often was committed by pious Bible-believing people 1. The consequence’s of the sins of slavery can reverberate down through the family trees of those who were enslaved and those who were the slave owners regardless of their race. Today it is these unhealed by the blood of Jesus wounds from the sins of slavery that Satan is using to divide and to destroy the western world.
Descendant of Slave Owners
I would like to share with you more of my own story. On my mothers’ side we are Bradfords and McCauleys. My Grandmother was a proud member of both the Daughters of the Revolution as well as of the Confederacy. Our family once owned thousands of acres of land around Charlotte, North Carolina.
These were land grants from Britain’s King George III. I vividly remember as a little boy my mother showing me the rows of slave log cabins that still stood on our family farm. She told me how terrible it was that we had owned other human beings made in the image of God. But she was proud that many of our freed slave’s descendants had taken our family name of Bradford. Also, that my great-grandfather had given each freed slave’s family pieces of our land as their own. (Their descendants still live there today.)
My wonderful grandfather had also helped both poor black and white families with jobs in the Cannon Cotton Mill where he worked as superintendent. He also provided help when anyone needed it in hard times. Also, to be totally transparent, there were a number of African Americans who were considered part of the family.
I never saw or experienced my parents or grandparents treating anyone, black or white, educated or uneducated with anything but love and respect. Later in my high school years in South Korea on the American Army based I grew up in a totally integrated military and embassy community. All the African American’s I knew were high ranking military officers or members of the Embassy. When I got older, however, even though my personal experiences with African Americans were wonderful, I was aware of the sinfulness of the legacy of slavery that was part of my heritage.
I was also aware of and actually spent my elementary school years when Jim Crow Laws ruled the South. I remember my Grandfather saying how unjust and unfair it was that “colored people” were made to drink out of a different water fountain than “white folks.” In my grandparent’s home, and on our farm, they modeled treating everyone with equal respect and love. In my opinion, my grandfather was an amazing, loving man of God, who had a profound influence on me.
However, there was still the lingering sinful legacy of slavery and passive participation with the Jim Crow Laws. I chose not to accept or to acknowledge those unjust systems; instead I rebelled against the remnants of them. After all, those were not my personal sins but those of my ancestors.
Healing From The Wounds of Ancestral Slave-Ownership
Here is how the Lord led me into an experience of Jesus forgiving the sins of my slave owning ancestors and healing the wounds of their past racial injustices.
I would like to tell you of an experience I had with Rev. Dr. Bishop Jim Logan. We were both younger when this event took place, sometime in the mid 1990’s. Rev. Jim Logan was the President of the Presbyterian-Reformed Ministries International (PRMI) Board of Directors, and served as a powerful leader in the renewal movement in the Presbyterian Church USA. Rev. Logan is now the Bishop of an independent international association of congregations in the United States and African Nations.
In the fall of 1995 Peterson Sozi from Uganda, Africa and I joined Rev. Jim Logan in conducting a special evening service at Jim’s church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte was perceived to be a city infamous for its murder rate of the African American community. Jim had a vision of building an interracial church as a testimony to God’s reconciling love, and we were there for this special service. This vision, up until then, seemed to have been blocked. I was the only white person attending that evening service.
At the end of the worship service, the Holy Spirit led those gathered into strategic intercessory prayer for the neighborhood surrounding the church. A word from the Lord came to me that there was something about the land that had historically given ground to strongholds of racial hatred and division. I spoke this out to the group. Jim confirmed that he had sensed the same discernment. Jim said that the area where the church was located had been a “for whites only” neighborhood in the Old South 2 under Jim Crow Laws.3
As we started to pray against this stronghold of racial hatred and division, suddenly a disconcerting realization came upon me. My ancestors, in colonial days4, had received a large land grant from the King of England, and our land had at one time included much of the area we were currently in. Furthermore, my family had owned slaves. My own mother could recall the rows of cabins on our family’s land that had housed the slaves. Some of which still stood on our family land where I used to play as a little boy.
I felt the Holy Spirit saying, “You must now confess the sins of your ancestors whose sins contributed to building the stronghold of racial injustice in North Carolina. This is a strongman and he must be bound. The way to start is through identificational repentance.” The Holy Spirit was leading me to identify with a people group–white southerners who owned slaves –and to repent on their behalf in the presence of descendants of black slaves.
I fought an inward battle, not wanting to face up to my family’s past responsibility. But finally, I asked Jim (an African American) and Peterson (an African) to come lay hands on me. As they did, I told the congregation of my family background. I then asked for forgiveness on behalf of my white-slave-owning ancestors. It was a humiliating yet a liberating experience. A number of people gathered around me weeping and saying that they forgave me. Then, as Holy Spirit usually does in reconciliation, some asked forgiveness for their own hatred of white people.
There followed a time where the Holy Spirit moved upon all those gathered. We were, at that moment, experiencing the fulfillment of Martin Luther King Jr.’s prophetic vision: 5
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”Martin Luther King Jr.
Except for us this was taking place on the “red hills” of North Carolina and the land once owned by my slave-owning ancestors.
Lord, Reveal Any Racial Ancestral Sin Within Us.
As we are focused here on the sins of racism, it would be well to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us if there are any such sins in our family line.
We can pray and invite the Lord to reveal these ancestral sins of racism to us. When these sins are exposed, we then can confess them and ask for Jesus’ forgiveness on behalf of those who participated in the sins. We can also ask the Lord to remove from us any of the results of their sins. One of which may be any lingering evil spirits or patterns of behaviors that have been passed on to us.
Often, in healing and deliverance ministry, I have seen the effects of unconfessed and unhealed sins in a person’s family tree. I have many times found that these sins and sin patterns have opened the door for evil spirits connected with sexual immorality, the occult, hatred of others, addictions, murder and so forth, to enter the family line and get passed down from generation to generation.
It may well be that racial hatred and prejudice, and even the demonic spirit of slavery, is a passed down sin pattern, and that there are evil spirits that contribute to such ungodly attitudes that continue down a family line.
In a number of deliverances and exorcisms I have witnessed Jesus casting out vicious demons of racial hatred. 6 Some of these evil spirits manifest as hatred of black people. These same evil spirits can also bring out racial hatred toward white people from other non-white communities. In other contexts, like in China or Korea, it was demons of hatred of the Japanese. These demons got in through the terrible atrocities committed by the Japanese against Koreans during the World War II era. (These are the demons that I personally had to contend with.)
In my own life, during a time of healing prayer for the emotional wounds I had from being profoundly dyslexic, it was revealed to me that there was an ancestral demonic spirit of violence and murder in me. I do not think this came from my slave-owning Bradford side of the family, but from the slave-owning Scottish McCauley side.
Some genealogical research has discovered that these same McCauley ancestors had to flee to the American Colonies because of violently assaulting a British officer. The demons of racial hatred, and the sin patterns of white supremacy and prejudice so typical of many white people of that era in the South however, were not passed on to me. The reason I am sure of this was my born-again and Spirit-filled grandparents and parents who may have dealt with these issues.
Helpful Guidelines for Healing from Ancestral Sins.
In dealing with the sins that were committed by our ancestors, there are three things to learn from my personal story that we can implement for today.
1. Holy Spirit Will Lead Us
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”Romans 3:23
Everyone’s ancestors committed some sin! Grievous sins such as murder, witchcraft, owning slaves, and so on could have been committed by our ancestors. But that does not mean we are called by the Lord to pray into, or repent, of those sins.
In China, where people had been forced to confess their ancestral sins, lasting emotional scars and unheeded roots of bitterness developed among the people. This violation of our inherent rights is what Satan perpetuates to break down the Body of Christ.
This form of coercion only brings about wounds where there is no forgiveness only retribution. All this does is build bitterness and hatred and deepen wounds in people’s hearts that Satan feeds on. I saw the terrible results of this in China where people had been forced to confess their ancestor’s sins. It left lasting emotional scars in them and deep unheeded roots of bitterness Chinese society. Confession of our ancestor’s sins, to be authentic and truly effective in healing, must be entirely led by the Holy Spirit and wrapped in the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
2. Repentance and Forgiveness
Another major element in healing the wounds caused by our ancestors’ sins, is what is called “identificational repentance” followed by forgiveness.
Identificational repentance is the act of consciously acknowledging our identification with a recognizable category of human beings and taking responsibility for repentance and the remission of “our” sins. In other words, we take “their” sins and see them as “our” sins.
The concept of remission is so important that I want to define it separately. Remission, as it is used in the New Testament, means far more than the common understanding used in the biblical translation of the New International Version (NIV) equivalent, forgiveness.
Remission means the removal of guilt, freedom from bondage and healing of wounds caused by sin.
Remission is so important that Jesus speaks of it in Luke’s record of the first and last words spoken during His public ministry here on earth. In Luke chapter 4, Jesus enters the synagogue on the Sabbath and speaks for the first time in his public ministry as he reads from the Prophet Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,”Luke 4:18, emphasis mine.
Later, in Luke chapter 24, Jesus’ last words before his ascension included the phrase:
“…repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations”Luke 24:47, emphasis mine.
The words “freedom”, “release”, and “forgiveness” are all translations of the same Greek word. Though each translation is correct, the understanding of the concept conveyed by this word includes all aspects of freedom, release and forgiveness.
It is not enough to forgive those who sin against us. We are called to set people free from the imprisonment they have suffered because of our sin against them. We are called to release people from the oppression they have suffered because of their sins against us.
Finally, it is not enough to set people free from the sins that we have committed against them personally. We are called to remit the sins we have participated in corporately, in the larger body of humanity, and the sins we are called to participate in identificationally.
3. We are NOT “culpable” for our ancestor’s their sins, but we may experience “corruption” from their sins.
We must probe further with a perplexing question: how am I responsible for my ancestor’s sins committed decades or even centuries before I was born? From the Bible we learn that we are not “culpable” for our ancestor’s sins. But we do experience the “corruption” from their sins.
To understand this, we must understand what the bible teaches. We must distinguish between culpability for the sins committed and the corrupting influence of those sins. Meaning, just because we did not commit a sin does not mean its evil isn’t affecting us.
“…thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands, of them that love me and keep my commandments.”Exodus 20:5-6. I believe the meaning of the original text is seen best in the Revised Version (RV).
As a brilliant explanation of this is in a bible study by by Reed DePace, senior minister of The Church at Chantilly, Historic First Presbyterian of Montgomery, Alabama. 7
The Hebrew word visiting explains how the sins of forefathers corrupt their descendants. The visiting in view is not some sort of social call, as if God were promising to drop in for milk and brownies. Instead, the word refers to a covenantal visiting: God visits on people, he gives them the experience of, the blessings or curses of his covenants to those in covenant with him, and their descendants. The fourth commandment (Exod. 20:5-6) illustrates the pattern of covenantal visiting succinctly:
“You shall not bow down to them or serve [other gods], for I the LORD your God am a jealous God:
[covenant curse] visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
[covenant blessing] but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
It is quite simple: God gives to the descendants of those in covenant with him the corruption results of their forefathers’ sins. If the culpability result of sin is personal (it only attaches to the sinning individual), then the corruption result of sin is corporate (it also attaches to those in covenant relationship with the sinning individual).
Now it is certainly true that while none of us in America in 2020 are culpable for the sin of slavery which was legally abolished in 1866 or the Jim Crow Law which was abolished in 1964. However, we have felt the “corruption” in the sin pattern of prejudice, and vulnerability to hatred and victimization, and stemming from those sins.
Our ancestors, those who have come before us, committed those sins but the repercussions of those sins have been passed down to us as individuals and in some places as a society. It is the role of born-again Christians, cooperating with the Holy Spirit, to take part in Jesus’ healing work. This work of repentance, forgiveness, and the responsibility is not just healing the wounds of the past, cleansing us from personal sins, but this means the end of the corruption that persist in the present.
“But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.”1 John 1:9 NET
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- We would also like to note that it was not just whites who owned black African slaves, but it was also free blacks, Cherokee Native Americans and others. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/facts-about-slavery/
- Culturally, “Old South” is used to describe the rural, agriculturally-based, and slavery-reliant economy and society. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_South
- Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Crow_laws
- This is the time period which covers the history of European colonization of America from the early 16th century until the incorporation of the colonies into the United States of America
- “I Have a Dream” is a public speech that was delivered by American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, in which he called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Have_a_Dream
- To find out more about healing prayer and deliverance through the ministry of PRMI: https://www.prmi.org/program-descriptions/advanced-healing-and-deliverance/
A Burden Removed: A Biblical Path for Removing the Racism of Our Forefathers THABITI ANYABWILE | NOVEMBER 18, 2019 by Reed DePace, senior minister of The Church at Chantilly, Historic First Presbyterian of Montgomery, Alabama. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabiti-anyabwile/burden-removed-biblical-path-removing-racism-forefathers/