Dealing With Consequences

I hate getting bad news. I hate giving people bad news, but that’s not as bad as getting the bad news. Sometimes you just have to give bad news like taking Band-aids off. Just rip it off. Say it in one go.

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, the wizard Gandalf the Grey, now Gandalf the White, has come to summon Theoden, King of the Riddermark, to fight the evils of Sauron and Saruman. What Gandalf finds instead is Theoden is now under the spell of Saruman through the traitor Grima (Wormtongue).

Lathspell, I name you.

Gandalf answers: There are two types of people who bring bad news. Those who do evil and those who come to help fight those who do evil. (my paraphrase). Sure enough, Gandalf brings the bad news that Saruman is sending an army to destroy Rohan and that Theoden must fight. War has come to Rohan.

Spoiler alert 1: Gandalf expels Saruman. The siege of Helm’s Deep was cinematic awesomeness, and Theoden and Co. ride off to glory to save Middle Earth.

Spoiler Alert 2: this post is really heavy. It might even make you mad. If you don’t like what I have to say, you don’t have to read on. But, if you want to know, read on.

This post is the sixth or seventh in my series on the book of Joshua in the Old Testament. It is a story of espionage, of sieges and miracles, and treachery. Whoever said the Bible was boring and out of date has clearly not read this book. I have been thinking about leadership and what the Bible has to say.

One thing the Bible says is clear: There ARE consequences to all our actions, for good and for bad. If you lie and steal from God, if you disobey him, you will be caught and punished. Not if. When. But if you honor God, if you do what is right, you will be blessed. Some of the blessings are physical but many more are spiritual. There are some blessings that money or material benefits just can’t confer – a feeling of peace and forgiveness, the loving presence of God, or the power to overcome trials and temptations.

Some of us have this posted somewhere on our fridge or framed on a wall:
Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.

I am anti-abortion. Not just because of the sanctity of life, which is very important, but also on ethical grounds. I honestly don’t care about all the rhetoric about a woman’s right to choose. In fact, that’s the lie: that fact that she can be free of consequences of her actions.

Can anyone be truly free of the consequences of any action, good or bad?

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Galatians 6:7-8, ESV

Why do we rebel against this? Why do we think we’re the exception to the rule? A few years ago, I told someone that he was playing with fire as he tried to manipulate the situation with a girl that he says he was in love with. Obviously, that man and all the other witnesses were very pissed off at me, calling me insensitive. But seriously, what other outcome was possible than heartache and broken trust?

Here are a few things I have learned over the course of the years:

  1. Do the right thing, and you don’t have to fear negative consequences.
  2. An adult accepts responsibility and even the consequences. A child does not. That’s the difference between the two.
  3. Some of the consequences take years and even decades to be mitigated. I had a minor fender bender 5 years ago. I’m still dealing with it with high insurance premiums. I totaled my car 16 years ago; I still get flashbacks and involuntary shakes.
  4. Sometimes, God is gracious and mitigates the negative consequences of my mistakes. Sometimes, He doesn’t. Either way, I hope I learn some thing. I don’t ever want to be the fool and make the same mistake twice.

Having a gracious God mitigate some of the consequences is not a license to do stupid stuff. There are plenty of warning signs. At the same time, having a gracious God means that I get more than I bargained for.

I try to end on a positive note. Somber, but positive. Why? Because dealing with the fallout of a mistake can last a long time. It doesn’t have to be that way. At the same time, I count my blessings. Perhaps that is a good place to start.

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