Go back with me to the Garden of Eden. Remember when God told Adam that he was free to choose the fruit from all but one tree of the Garden. Adam was in a perfect environment with only ONE lousy choice, but God said that he and Eve were free to choose to eat from the tree or not.
Now the same is true for you and me. You are free to choose what is wrong! Of course, you know that. And, along with that choice, you are also choosing the consequences, which are painful and largely unexpected.
Fortunately, the result of some bad choices can result in better behavior. How can that be? Because the consequences of bad choices plant a seed that can grow better behavior.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” - Genesis 2:16–17
Go back and read Genesis 3:1-19. In that passage of scripture, you can see what God DID and DIDN'T DO. Here are a few things I saw.
Free to Choose
If you take everything in the lists above and shorten it, it would say:
God allowed them to freely walk away from what was best for them and experience the costly consequences of their decision.
That statement is not easy to accept or understand. And it probably sends shivers down the spine of parents and anyone in a position of authority. Of course, you might ask, “Why would God let them experience the enormous consequences without stopping them?”
Since God is PERFECT, it was obviously the right thing to do. So instead of questioning it, accept it, at least for now, and see how to use God’s approach in your leadership and relationships.
Right now, someone you know is doing the wrong thing, and there will be consequences. If you were God, what would you do when you learn about what they are doing? Would you try to change their mind to do what is right? Would you put an obstacle in their way to prevent them from doing what is wrong? Or, would you accept their freedom to choose to do something wrong, even if it has dire consequences?
That thought alone seems unacceptable. And most parents would think, “How could I just let my child do the wrong thing without intervening?” Actually, any person in a position of authority would probably think that way.
That is why God shares the Bible with us. He says there is another way to think.
Yes, I know that God has a plan, and this was part of His plan. Praise Him that He is in control and orchestrating His plan to its ultimate glorious and perfect ending. Yet, somehow, we are also free to choose.
That is all true, and praise God, but there is another lesson to learn from what God DIDN'T DO. Consider this, when people don't experience the consequences of bad choices, it can hinder their growth and learning.
Maybe the consequences will create a “death” in that behavior to provide the seed to grow better behavior.
God Rescues Souls AND Allows Sin
Yes, God redeems and rescues souls from hell, AND He does not stand in the way of your sinful desires and actions – or mine! That is a critical thought that could radically change all your relationships.
God has a plan, and the sin in the Garden was allowed and part of His plan. How can you know that – because it happened! Anything that has occurred was permitted by God and is part of His plan. He is in control as He orchestrates the plan to its glorious and perfect end.
He is totally in control, AND you are free to choose – no one knows how both of those are true, but they are – praise God that He knows how all this works, and He is doing it PERFECTLY!
Is He PERFECT when He doesn’t prevent you from sinning and lets you experience its consequences? Of course! That may be the most important thing for you to realize right now. When you stop someone from experiencing consequences, you MAY be hindering their growth and learning. Maybe the consequences become the seed that is planted to grow new behavior!
But Freedom Will Cost Too Much!
What if the cost of the consequences is too high? Shouldn’t you step in and prevent it? That makes sense and appears to be excellent and good thinking. The difficulty is, in the Garden of Eden and throughout ALL the Bible, God provides clear examples of how He provided explicit instruction, sent prophets to remind and warn of the consequence and STILL let the people experience very BAD consequences.
The most costly, WORST consequence that can happen to any person is separation from God, AND God allows that to happen!
Since God is our model, He created you, gave you the freedom to choose, and allows the consequences of your bad choices. He also provides everything needed for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) for His children and lets us walk away from Him in sin.
With that as the background, is it correct to say that it is best to –
It is easy to argue against that when using our knowledge, experience, and thinking. But it is hard to argue with that logic when you read God’s Word. God provides that sequence numerous times in His Word, and you have seen it in your life. It is straightforward to say that following that sequence is acting like God. But my behavior, and probably yours, most often violate one or more of those items. That leaves you in the position of trying to prevent people from crossing the boundary, trying to control them. Unfortunately, control drives them to rebel and use counter-strategies to cross the boundary anyway.
All five steps are essential. If you don’t provide the clarity in steps 1-3, you do not help people know what behavior is right and wrong. Without step 4, you are apathetic without mercy, and without step 5, there is no freedom AND justice. It is wise to identify which steps you are prone to ignore.
God Allows the Worst Choices
Going back to the relationship mistakes, if you tend to be a “Dictator,” trying to control everything and everybody, much of your worry and anxiety is associated with step 5. Based on personal experience, when I made sure that steps 1-4 were done, that provided the strength and courage to trust God and use step 5.
So, what is the learning from this? The only way to model God’s behavior is to do ALL 5 of those items listed above. The LAST item is the one that screams at me that it can’t be true. It is like fingernails on a chalkboard. BUT that is what GOD DID, and He is PERFECT.
As I reflect on my life, the seed of consequences has most often grown and developed into new and better behavior. The WORSE the consequence, the greater the blossom of changed behavior. There are also situations where the bad behavior was not changed, and the consequences were rationalized or became a “pity party.” Those situations, once recognized, blossomed into better behavior, but there was a long time before the seed was planted.
Maybe your intervention or trying to rescue someone prevents the seed of consequences that can develop into the blossom of change!
What would God do? It is evident from God’s Word that He lets humanity experience the consequence of sin, even when it results in a person’s choice for Hell.
BUT WAIT, THAT ISN’T THE END!
If you stop at step 5, you miss some of the marvelous actions of our PERFECT God and Father. You miss the salvation message that God provides over and over and over again in His Word. Consider the cycles you see in Judges, the cycles you see throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament.
If you follow the cycles in Judges, you see this pattern
- Sin – You cross the boundary into the realm of pain and consequences
- Enemy – God allows the pain and consequences about which He warned
- Cry – You don’t like the pain and consequences and cry for deliverance
- Deliverer – God redeems and delivers you…
…and the cycle starts over … unless you trust God and don’t cross the boundary!!
What Are You Missing by Stopping at Step 5?
FORGIVENESS, REDEMPTION, and RESTORATION!
So, YES, the cycle is real! God allows you to experience the consequences (step 5), AND since He has already forgiven you, He waits patiently for your return and confession (repentance is part of confession). He constantly looks for your return like the prodigal son’s father, rejoices in your changed heart, and throws a party to welcome you back.
The consequences experienced are not removed, but they are part of the process that helps motivate changed thinking. Even though it sounds strange to say, as stated earlier, the consequences may be the seed planted to grow new behavior.
Finally, the five steps are incomplete and not linear – it is a cycle or, hopefully, an upward spiral. When you apply the teaching of Jesus about forgiveness in Luke 17:3-10 into the process, there is almost a sigh that comes from your soul – thank you, Lord, that the “game” is not over when experiencing the consequences.
So, while the first five steps are real, the FINAL 2 are also real –
- Forgive ALWAYS
- Restore (and redeem) fellowship at repentance
The last step is not tied to forgiveness; it is connected to their repentance. That is the idea of 1 John 1:9.
The addition of these final two steps more appropriately follows the model God provides. In fact, the process demonstrates His Image –
- Powerful = boundaries, consequences, justice
- Belonging = freedom, forgiveness, restoration
What Will You Do?
We are free to choose and free to experience the consequences of bad choices!!
In many situations, bad behavior isn't changed, and the consequences are rationalized or become a “pity party.” But, when they repented, those same people and situations often blossomed into better behavior. Unfortunately, there was a long time before the seed was planted more than once.
As you think about your relationships, maybe your intervention or trying to rescue someone is preventing the seed of consequences that can develop into the blossom of change!
You are free to choose a better path.
Please pray about this and consider applying it to your relationships TODAY!
(Click here to download a document titled the "Seed of Consequences" from which this blog was created.)
GR8 Relationships—Pursuing the BEST in work, in life, in love.
Right Thinking—Right Relationships—Right NOW!!