I watched something happen over the course of the last six weeks that broke my heart – but it isn’t the first time that I’ve seen it happen.
I saw the warning signs, stepped in weeks ago to set some things straight and I really thought I had helped. But then a few days ago everything fell apart and I watched yet one more believer sink into blasphemy, paganism and self-exaltation when they didn’t get what they wanted.
Like I said, it wasn’t the first time:
“Ok ok, I see, so just because I’ve been divorced three times, God isn’t going to give me another wife? I am sick of being alone!”
“I gave up the booze, and my family still doesn’t trust me! Why isn’t God rewarding me for doing what was right? Why isn’t He giving me my family back?”
I won’t share the latest one to come across my path, but in the end they all sound the same.
“I made a few mistakes that I am suffering for – I thought that turning to God would make my life easier.”
That’s what they say but this is what it really means, if they would be honest about it:
“I made some really bad decisions. The consequences of my bad actions are wreaking havoc in my life. I don’t want to have to deal with those consequences and I thought that God was supposed to fix things in return for my obedience. He owes me.”
When we make bad decisions that involve other people, we are oftentimes at their mercy for the rest of our lives. I cannot, cannot stress enough the importance of knowing those whom we desire to covenant with. When we make bad decisions that hurt other people, we are sometimes at the mercy of their woundedness for the rest of our lives. When we develop a terrible track record, we are at the mercy of that track record – and people are fools for not considering it before getting involved with us emotionally, or in business or otherwise.
One of the prime differences between mature, compassionate believers and immature, selfish pseudo-believers is how they look at what God and the others in their lives “owe them.” Although they are quite often owed nothing – no trust, no rescue, no anything – they will often want credit for good intentions and/or for starting down the right path. They want full credit of a completely turned around life, for simply pivoting in place and looking in the other direction.
But, when they make that turn and immediately think of themselves and their own rights and own wants, they prove then and there that they really haven’t changed much at all. Regardless of whether they are addicted to drugs, sex, or the thrill of making spur of the moment decisions based on feelings and desires – they are self-focused people who want to see the world through their own eyes, satisfy their own needs, and to serve a God who really serves them and rescues them whenever they get into trouble.
But our King is not an enabler. It isn’t His job to rescue us when we make foolish choices – we didn’t ask Him before making those choices and so it is not His responsibility to get us out of the resulting trouble. And how we react in the midst of the trouble that we ourselves have caused through bad decisions is going to determine if we are faithful or unfaithful.
Not being rescued from the consequences of our evil and foolish choices is often how He tests us:
Am I going to recognize that this consequence is the logical result of what I did, who I trusted, and the choices I made? Am I going to praise Him that He inspired me to stop sinning and hurting people and go forward trying to make amends?
Am I going to turn on God in anger because he isn’t making my sin consequence-free? Am I going to find reasons to find fault with Him? Am I going to slander Him publicly on unrelated matters? Am I going to brood about what He owes me above and beyond the gift that Yeshua gave me?
Am I going to accept my consequences (judgment) with grace, realizing I did it to myself, or am I going to refuse the consequences (judgment) and declare myself more righteous than God?
Sometimes our sins are miraculously wiped away and sometimes they follow us forever. They follow us because they involved other people who have free will – God isn’t going to violate the free will of the wife who finally gave up on her drunk husband, or the kids on their abusive father. They deserve justice, and sometimes it works out that they get it.
A lot of it comes down to the test of gratitude. Was Yeshua’s death and gift of eternal life enough? Or will you have the unmitigated gall to demand that all the bad choices you made just go away, that all the people you damaged should just not hurt and be suspicious anymore?
It is also a test of compassion. Do the people who your sins hurt get a chance to heal? Do they have a choice whether or not to trust? Do you love them and give them the space they need or do you simply love them like a glutton loves his lunch? Do they exist to fill your emotional needs or do you exist to fill theirs for a change, even if it means keeping away from them so they can feel safe? Do they have the right to walk away and cut their losses because the pain got to be more than they could take?
The Bible is clear – the people we hurt deserve justice, and that justice takes the form of personal consequences. When we demand our lives to be consequence free, we are really demanding that those we hurt get no justice….