Whatever Became of Consequences?

            Today, the idea of sin has been banished from our culture. Even more, the issue of the “consequences for sin” is ridiculed and reviled. “How dare you say this happened to me because of what I did?” Or, “You judgmental, intolerant freak. Who are you to say I’m just sowing what I’ve reaped?” People who talk about “the wages of sin,” or, “Your sin will find you out,” are often put down as hypercritical fundamentalists. Richard Dawkins, the well-known author and atheist, says one reason he hates the God of the Bible so much is because of God’s repressive view of sexuality. Dawkins thinks we should get to do whatever we want sexually or otherwise and no one has the right to tell us it’s wrong or there will be consequences. 

            All through my life, though, I have seen how doing wrong things often brings on grave consequences. Some “fudging” once on a tax return got me into an audit that cost more than three-thousand dollars. Sneaky police officers have caught me speeding so many times that I finally gave up and decided to stick to reasonable limits. Getting overly angry has cost me dearly in some relationships.

            Why do we do this to ourselves?

            The truth is this attitude permeates our culture. We believe there are no moral rules we should obey, no “commandments” we need to heed. Instead, many say we “make up our own morality” and “If it makes you happy, what could be wrong with it?”

            Nonetheless, we see consequences all around us. From the sexual capers of Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton to the sub-prime mortgage crisis to politicians lying about their courage under fire, we all know that violating basic laws against adultery, greed, and false witness brings tremendous and terrible results. Unfortunately, we all escape enough to make us think we can risk the wrongdoing again and again and again. That is, until we inevitably get caught. And then we try to lie our way out of it, or downplay it, or tell others “It’s none of your business.” 

            Unfortunately, by then the kick kicks back and we may be kicking ourselves about it for years after. 

            Is there any hope for those who’ve stiffed the moral truths that underpin reality and found themselves on the wrong end of a scandal or family upheaval?

            I know of no other place you’ll find such words, but when the enemies of Jesus threw a woman caught in adultery at his feet and demanded he say stoning her was the right thing to do, Jesus didn’t compromise justice, or fall over and say, “Oh, well, it happens.” No, he confronted the justice-seekers, showing them their hypocrisy, and then he turned to the woman and said, “I don’t condemn you either; go, and sin no more.” 

            When the Romans nailed him to the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

            Christ calls us to a realistic discipleship: “Don’t sin, or it will be bad for you; but when you do, ask for forgiveness and go on, determined not to do it again.” He doesn’t always eliminate the earthly consequences, but faith will eliminate the eternal ones, according to the Bible. It’s never too late for anyone to go to God and find mercy. He says in Isaiah, “Come now, and let us reason together; for though your sins are scarlet, they will be white as wool.”

            It’s when we continue to lie, cry, “Foul!” or call our accusers “moralistic hypocrites,” that we only make matters worse. 


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