Choices and Consequences
Old Testament Reading- Psalms 25:1-10
New Testament Reading- 1 Peter 3:18-22
By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -February 28, 2021
When God created women and men, they were created perfect, without flaw, and God saw that it was good. Good, just like everything else He had created. God does not make anything that is bad, God is good and no bad can come from Him. Well, how did we get in this mess, then? If God can’t make bad creations, why did angels, people, and creation fall? It is an ages old question, but one that has a very good answer, ‘Love.’ God is good, but God is also love, pure love. God created angels and humans with the ability to experience pure love, but because God is perfect and we have already established that nothing imperfect can come from Him, God could not create beings with the ability to love without giving them a choice.
Choice, that is one of the major players in the world that we live in. Choice is at the center of this thing we call free will. True love cannot exist without the freedom to choose otherwise. If God wanted to create a world where we all loved each other and Him without freedom to choose, He would have created automatons, not angels and humans. God wanted for us what He has though, freedom. Maybe God should have created a world where there was no choice to make, it was only one choice, good. I would not say that God could not have made a world that way, but would we really have wanted Him too? How would that be different than being automatons? Can there really be a world where ying doesn’t have a yang, or good does not have a bad? Some may say, “Heaven is that way, there is no bad in Heaven.” Yes, but there is a choice in that as well, but that is for another Sunday.
I believe one problem stems from when we are children and it gets even worse as we become adolescents, we are focused on ourselves and because we are focused on ourselves, we want to believe that every decision we make will not have a consequence. When we raise our children, who we love, and teach them that whatever they do, we will fix it for them, or that someone will fix it for them, we are setting them up for failure. We then expect the same from God, we want Him to fix everything for us so that we can do what we want without any cost. How is it that we can see these problems in others, but not in ourselves? It makes me think of the story about the newly formed butterfly that hasn’t yet broken out of it’s chrysalis. A person comes along while it is struggling, and they want to help so they cut the chrysalis free for them. Many days later they return to the chrysalis and find that the butterfly is still there, and it looks just like it did when they last saw it, but now it is dead. Their heart was in the right place, but what they didn’t know was that the butterfly needs the struggle to strengthen it’s new wings so that it can fly, because it could never fly, it could not feed itself and it died. God is the perfect parent, and the Bible says that God disciplines His children and allows us the struggle, it is called life. Knowing that, do we really want God to take our free will now? Garth Brooks sang a song in the 1990’s called, “The Dance,” where it talks about some hard times that a couple experiences and how they do not stay together. The chorus then says, “And, now, I’m glad I didn’t know. The way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance.” Anyone who has fallen in love can remember the first time they held another in their arms and danced to the music of a slow ballad. The feelings you experience are unique to that moment and they are the most wonderful feelings in this world. I wouldn’t trade it, would you? Why would God rob us of that experience, that feeling of love, but true love and free will do not exist without the decision to choose otherwise.
I think where we all get confused is, we want to think that God does not have rules to follow. Let me put that another way, we want to think that God does not have rules to follow when it comes to what we want. It is like a person selling cars; we all know that they make a commission on selling a car, it is the way that they make their living. Let’s face it, why would a person sell you a car if they didn’t make any money on it? I didn’t know that our utilities in our homes were free or that we can go to the market and take whatever food we want for nothing. When some people buy a car, they literally want the salesperson to sell it to them for nothing. I have heard people say, “They make enough money, they can afford to give it to me, and they’re still ahead.” Really? How do you know? What if they did that for everyone? How many people do they make that kind of offer too and where do they draw the line? They wouldn’t do this for long or they would be out of business. The same line of thinking goes for what we expect of God, but on a much grander scale. How much slip does God allow, to give us what we want?
Our God is a just God. Isaiah 61:8 tells us, “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing.” God hates it for the same reasons we hate it, because it hurts us. We expect God to be the most just of all judges, but hold on, not for me or the ones I love. Is that possible? You might say, “Well yes, all things are possible with God, the Bible tells us as much.” Yes, but we are asking God to do something that is not possible for Him, for it is not possible for God to do something that is not perfect, right, or just. Do we really want God to be unjust?
“Wow, so let me get this. God created a world that is hard and has difficult decisions with even more difficult consequences and now you tell me that He is a just God that will probably punish me to the letter of the law?” “What hope do I have?” Well, first God did not create a world that is hard, He created a paradise. The world we live in is a fallen world from the one God created, we now live in a world that is the consequence of the decision our first ancestors made when they chose freely to rebel against God. God told Adam and Eve in the garden that they could eat from every tree but one, and if they chose to eat from that tree, they would die. Of course, and we would have been no different, they chose that one tree, and we can’t put full blame on the tempter, though his sin is great, because we still made the choice freely. God being a just God had to follow what He told them, and as a consequence all of creation fell from paradise to what we have now. God had no other choice, we left Him with no other. The consequence for sin is death, no way around it, but now we get to the second part of the above-mentioned question. Is there no hope from a just God?
We have talked about free will and consequences and God loving us like a caring parent. We have also talked about God being just when it comes to justice and how He can’t break rules that He put into effect, it would be an imperfect act and God wouldn’t do it. So where is the hope? How does God get around the penalty for sin being death? The answer is, He pays it Himself. “What? That doesn’t even make sense.” “What do you mean He pays it Himself?” Now you are going to see the power of God. God can’t and won’t break His own rules of consequence, so He became the solution without breaking the rules. God, in the second form of the Trinity, Jesus the Son, was born a human birth, lived a human life with all the trials and tribulations that we experience, and died a human death. Jesus, the One without sin, died a horrible death to become the payment of death for sin for all people. Peter tells us in his first Epistle 3:18-22, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”
That is the hope that only God has the power to offer us. The ultimate power that does not cheat the system but delivers in a way that is least expected. Imagine that, we serve a Creator that would sacrifice Himself for us. To die the most awful death and for nothing that He did wrong, but He would do that for us. “Wait, what about the just God that has to punish me for all my sins?” Did I forget to mention amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me? If you have a heart for God and trust in Him and believe in what He has done for us and are not too proud to accept His help, then your debt is paid in full. Jesus has paid it for us. Our slate is clean, no matter what we have done. We have life anew, now in this life, and in the one to come. Thanks be to God! Amen.