Free to Choose Bad Consequences
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 bad choice, but God said that he and Eve were free to choose to eat of 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 thought alone seems totally 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 that will grow better behavior.
Freedom Will Cost Too Much
It is reasonable to think, “It is important to determine the cost to them and others and if the cost is too high, step in and prevent it.” It is hard to argue with that statement.
But, in the Garden of Eden and THROUGHOUT the Bible, God does it differently. And, there was extremely high cost to people, even now in our life. The Bible has clear examples of how God provided clear instruction, sent prophets to remind people, warned them of the consequence, and always let the people experience very COSTLY and BAD consequences.
Why? Because God made us free to choose His way or our way. But that doesn't seem right! True, based on how we think, but God thinks differently and PERFECTLY.
Consider this. The WORST consequence that can happen to any person is separation from God, right? Yet, God allows that to happen.
Since God is our model for how to act, it is best to pay attention to what He does. He created freedom of choice and He allows the consequences that result from bad choices. He provides everything needed for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) for His children and lets us walk away from Him in sin.
Time to Take A Different Approach
Okay, if that is true, is it correct then to say that it is best to…
- provide clear instruction
- draw bright, clear boundaries
- describe clear consequences
- encourage and exhort self-governance and freedom
- allow people to experience the consequences
If those steps are correct, my behavior most often violates one or more of those items. When we do not follow those steps, we try to prevent people from crossing the boundary. We try to control them which drives them to rebel and use counter strategies to get across the boundary anyway.
All 5 of the steps are important. If you don’t provide the clarity needed 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.
Which of the steps you are prone to ignore?
God Allows the Worst Choices
If you go back to the 4 relationship mistakes, a “Dictator's” worry and anxiety is mostly about step 5. Since I am the poster child for "Dictator" behavior, I believe the steps are important to consider. When I make sure that I follow steps 1-4 regularly, they provide the strength and courage to trust God and use step 5.
So, what can we learn from this? God does all 5 steps, so we model God’s behavior when we do ALL 5.
The LAST item, step 5, screams at me that it can’t be true. It is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me and maybe to you. 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. That has only happened when I confessed my bad behavior and chose God's way.
What Will You Do?
We are free to choose and free to experience the consequences of bad choices!!
There are also many situations where bad behavior isn't changed and the consequences were rationalized or became a “pity party”. But, those same people and situations, when they repented, often blossomed into better behavior. Unfortunately, more than once, there was a long time before the seed was planted.
As you think about the relationships you have, maybe your intervention or trying to rescue someone is preventing the seed of consequences which can develop into the blossom of change!
You are free to choose a better path.