The situation: Mom treasures an old vase that belonged to great-grandmother. It is the only thing she has that belonged to great-grandmother. It is not worth much, but it is of enormous personal value. She warned her son often not to touch the vase.

The happening: the son shatters the vase. It is broken into so many fragments that it could never be glued together.

The question: should the son endure consequences of his action? What form should those consequences take? How should Mom impose those consequences?

Before deciding if consequences should occur, the form of those consequences, and how to impose the consequences, there are other issues to settle.

How did the vase break? Was it an accident? Was it willful, deliberate disobedience? Or, was it one of those unusual, freak happenings?

Obviously, Mom is deeply upset. Should Mom express her anger and grief in the consequences? Or, should Mom assume the consequences?

If the son broke the vase by willfully, deliberately disobeying Mom, what should Mom do? Should her rage give her son a beating never to be forgotten? Should Mom wait until her feelings are under control before deciding the consequences? Should her son understand the "why" of the consequences?

It seems to me the two "bookend approaches" of Mom's options are these. One "bookend" is the "no consequence" mentality. "Honey, it is my fault, not yours. I should have placed the vase out of your sight and reach." The other "bookend" is to give him a whipping that he will never forget. A multitude of options lie between those "bookends," and hopefully Mom's wisdom will choose one of those options.

To me, in real terms, those "bookends" contrast our past society with our present society. In the past, a razor strap whipping was almost automatic. Some of you experienced that consequence. Today, "It is not your fault," is a common approach.

  1. Every one of our personal worlds struggle with messes.
    1. In our fantasies, someone else's life is ideal and has no problems.
      1. The truth: there are no ideal lives.
      2. The truth: everyone struggles in his or her personal life.
      3. The struggle between good and evil expresses itself in personal terms in all our lives.
    2. Nowhere is that struggle more real than in the consequences of behavior.
      1. The consequences of behavior is a complicated, complex reality.
      2. Sometimes we struggle because of consequences produced by our own behavior, even when we do not wish to admit it.
      3. Sometimes we struggle because of consequences produced by the behavior of those we love.
      4. Sometimes we struggle because of consequences produced by the behavior of people we do not even know.
      5. Sometimes we struggle because of consequences produced by behavior within our society.
      6. Sometimes we struggle because of consequences produced by behavior in our world.
      7. Most of our struggles are produced by a combination of these.
      8. The struggle between good and evil occurs in all those arenas, and all those struggles affect our personal lives.
    3. This is the truth: in the context of physical life and physical existence, we cannot eliminate bad consequences.
      1. Given our freedoms and opportunities, we can make choices that reduce the number and the effect of some bad consequences.
      2. However, the majority of the people in our world cannot make such choices.
        1. The majority of the world's population have few opportunities or freedoms.
        2. The majority of the world's population have little control over what happens in their personal worlds.
      3. Because evil is an ever present reality, bad consequences are a constant part of physical existence.

  2. I want to emphasize two simple truths about behavior and consequences by using Bible examples of two men.
    1. The first man was a godly man who thought through manipulation he could escape the consequences of his ungodly behavior. Consider Israel's King David (2 Samuel 11-17).
      1. King David was truly a godly man who had an enormous heart for God.
        1. Once King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah's wife.
          1. As a result of his "one night stand," Bathsheba was pregnant.
          2. Uriah was a soldier in David's army, and he was with the army fighting a battle.
          3. David thought he could hide his adultery by having Uriah come home and be with his wife.
          4. David's plan failed, so he sent Uriah back to the army carrying orders for him to be placed in the front line in a way that assured his death.
        2. Uriah was killed in a battle; Bathsheba mourned for him the appropriate period; and David married her.
          1. David was certain he had hidden his adultery.
          2. He was certain there would be no consequences.
      2. Months later, after the child's birth, the prophet Nathan confronted David.
        1. Not for one moment had all David's evil acts been hidden from God's eyes.
        2. The consequences were enormous: David suffered; Bathsheba suffered; the child died; and the resulting consequences within David's family included rape, murder, and a determined effort by one of David's sons to destroy him.
      3. Though David was a godly man, the consequences of his behavior were enormous.
        1. God forgave him.
        2. But forgiveness did not eliminate the consequences.
    2. The second man was a godly man whose bad consequences were not produced by his personal choices. Consider Daniel in the book of Daniel.
      1. For generations God warned the kingdom of Judah they would pay horrible consequences for their ungodliness and idolatry if they did not repent and return to Him.
        1. The people of Judah refused to repent and turn to God.
        2. After many warnings and a lot of patience, God allowed the people of Judah to suffer the consequences of their behavior.
      2. The consequences began by allowing the Babylonian empire to take control of the kingdom of Judah.
        1. The first to go into exile included young men from the finest families in Israel; young men from the royal family and the families of nobility; young men who were noted for intelligence, wisdom, and understanding.
        2. Among these young men was a young man named Daniel.
      3. Nothing indicates that Daniel went into Babylonian exile as a consequence of his own personal ungodliness.
        1. In fact, the book of Daniel documents the godly faith and godly behavior of this man.
        2. Yet, he was among the first to go into exile.
        3. He never saw his homeland again.
        4. He never walked the streets of Jerusalem again.
        5. He may never have seen his family again.
      4. Yet, he was a godly man in very ungodly circumstances who was committed to God. Once, early in his exile, Daniel praised God with these words:
        Daniel 2:20-23 "Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him. To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power; Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, For You have made known to us the king's matter."
      5. Daniel endured the consequences of evil produced by generations of rebelliousness committed before his birth.
    3. David and Daniel represent scary realities.
      1. It is impossible for us to hide anything we do from God.
      2. It is possible for us to endure bad consequences made necessary by the lives and decisions of other people.

  3. A loving God in the ultimate kindness we know as grace and mercy did something for us none of us could do for ourselves.
    1. We often say God sent us Jesus to die for our sins, but perhaps we have said that so long that we have forgotten what God did for us.
      1. Jesus declared what God was doing when he talked to Nicodemus:
        John 3:16-19 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
      2. Everyone, including Israel, was already perishing, but the loving God wanted to substitute eternal life for perishing.
        1. So the loving God sent Jesus to save the world, not condemn the world.
        2. Those who continue in faithlessness in Jesus are self-condemned.
        3. But those who place their faith in Jesus are removed from perishing.
        4. Placing our trust in what God did in Jesus removes us from condemnation.
    2. Why? What was it that God did in Jesus that destroys our condemnation?
      1. Many Bible statements tell us what God allowed to happen in Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, but two powerfully come to my mind.
        1 Peter 2:24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
        1. Jesus wore our sins, actually wore our sins, as he died on the cross.
        2. He did that to give us opportunities that did not exist.
          1. He did that to give us the opportunity to die to sin.
          2. He did that to give us the opportunity to live to righteousness.
        3. Because he was wounded for us, you and I can be healed.
          2 Corinthians 5:21 He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
        4. As Jesus died on the cross, God made Jesus sin for us.
        5. Why did God do that? So in Jesus we might become the righteousness of God.
      2. What God did for us in Jesus is too incredible to completely comprehend.
        1. As he wrote to Christians, John gave this explanation in 1 John 1:5-10.
        2. If as Christians we will do three things:
          1. Commit ourselves to living in God's light;
          2. Live in fellowship with each other;
          3. Confess (to God) the sins we realize that we commit.
        3. God promises Christians to do the following:
          1. Use Jesus' blood to cleanse (ongoing process) us from all sin.
          2. Forgive us of the sins we confess.
          3. Cleanse (ongoing process) us from all unrighteousness.
        4. Thus for the Christian every day of life begins brand new because God cleanses us in Jesus' blood.

As long as we live on this earth there will be evil, and evil will produce consequences. But as long as we live on this earth, in Christ we can begin every day new in the cleansing only God can provide.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 21 October 2001

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