Judgement Or Consequence?
Ephesians 2:4-5 (NASB)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).
Answering questions of people who are hurting can tend to be a challenging thing for any pastor. Often times people come to their pastor, only after something bad has happened. Or, they only ask for spiritual guidance after an event has occurred or a decision has been made. There is always more work in cleaning up a mess than preventing it in the first place. Even as I write these words, fully understanding the direction I am going, I fall into this trap at times myself. It is pride in human nature that makes us do things that wisdom might tell us not to. The counsel of trusted and proven people is always worth it’s weight in gold!
Recently, I was pondering the idea of people dealing with issues that have occurred because of something they had done. There seems at times to be inconsistencies in the “judgement” people face from the wrongs they have perpetrated. Have you ever seen it? Two people caught in the same sin, yet with varying outcomes? What about two people, both equally faithful, and one gets blessed greatly and one not so much or even not at all? These are times when we go to God and ask the age old question, “but why?” It just doesn’t seem fair!
The reason people get mad at God in these times is because they simply don’t understand how God works, though His word makes it clear. God is not looking to judge us, He is not looking to pour out His wrath, or to punish us for every little mistake. The truth is most of the effects we deal with regarding sin have nothing to do with God or His judgement at all. It is the result of consequence, and God does not control consequence. I am not saying judgement never comes, but it seems to me that whenever God’s judgement finally does come, it comes swiftly and with finality.
We have plenty of scripture that tells us God is not looking to destroy us but to bless us. He withholds judgement, far longer than any of us would. Think about it, He was patient with the Canaanites though they were evil for like 400 years! Look how long and how many times He waited for and still blessed Israel, though they constantly went astray. Or how He purposed to send warning to the Ninevites, and then waited for the disobedient one (Jonah) whom He sent, to get right and warn them. Then look at Jesus, long-suffering with His disciples as they failed in faith and action time and again. To the point that He even forgave Peter and consequently restored him though Peter denied Him with a curse. Yes, the Lord is patient, looking to bless and not to harm.
What God did warn us about are the things sin produces. Sin causes bad things to happen, not because God makes them happen, but because that’s what happens when you sin. Natural consequences to things done wrong are so often overlooked. God doesn’t cause lung cancer but smoking can. If someone gets cancer because they smoked, that has nothing to do with God. Some people, because of their genetics may not get it, while some get it quickly. The fact remains, both are at risk. This is one little example, but I think it shows my point. Of course there are cancers not caused by smoking, but rest assured there is an answer and that answer is never because of God.
We must realize, God is not bringing judgement upon us for every failure we happen to trespass. Quite the opposite, He has made a way out. 1 John 2:1 (NASB) says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Our advocate does not erase all the consequences of our sin, but He does cleanse us from it so we can have access back to the Father. This is actually completely the opposite of what people think! They think He has brought judgement, when in reality He has made a way to bypass that judgement. I believe this with my whole heart, that if we find ourselves in a heap of self caused trouble, yet truly repent and turn back to Him, His wonderful Holy Spirit will guide us out of the mess we’ve created. Instead people blame God or others for their trouble, refuse to yield to His Spirit, and spend too much time wandering in the wilderness! What most people blame on judgement is nothing more than consequence of sin!
Now we could argue about consequence all day long but honestly, that’s dumb. Why argue about what we’ve received when we’ve been wrong? If you were wrong, you deserve consequence regardless of whether it’s fair or not. Think about it this way. We’ve been way more blessed than we deserve. Should we fight that too? Certainly not!
The truth is Christians, consequence should bring us to one place and that place is repentance. Repentance means to change direction and go in another. If there is no consequence than there is no change and if we don’t change we are the same lost creature unable to get in His presence. His presence is the fullness of joy, and that my friends is where God desires us to be. Stop blaming God, but look to Him for help. After all, He’s never far from any of us!