Right now, someone you know may be doing something bad. There will be a consequence. What would you do when you learn about it? 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?
God Rescues Souls AND Allows Sin
Yes, God created a plan to rescue souls from going to hell, AND He does not stand in the way of those who choose against His perfect plan. He also permits your sinful desires and actions and mine! That is a critical thought that could radically change all your relationships.
Obviously, 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! God permitted anything that has occurred and is part of His plan. He is in control as He orchestrates the plan to its ultimate glorious and perfect end.
He is totally in control, AND you are free to make choices – no one knows how both 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 the consequences of it? Of course! That may be the most important thing for you to realize right now. When you stop someone from experiencing a consequence, you may hinder their growth and learning. Maybe the consequence will become the seed 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 is common sense and appears to be good and reasonable thinking. The difficulty is, in the Garden of Eden and throughout 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 the BAD consequence He told them about.
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 freedom of choice and allows the consequences of bad decisions. He also provides everything that is needed for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) for His children and lets us walk away from Him in sin.
Therefore, is it correct to say it is best to follow these steps?
It is easy to argue against that when using our knowledge, experience, and thinking. But it is hard to argue with it 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 easy to say that following that sequence is acting like God. But my behavior, and probably yours, most often violates one or more of those items. That leaves you trying to prevent people from crossing the boundary, trying to control them. Unfortunately, control drives them to rebel and use counter strategies to get across the boundary anyway.
All five steps are essential. If you don’t provide clarity in steps 1-3, you do not help people know right and wrong behavior. 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 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.
Reflecting on my life, the seed of consequence has often 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 did not change, and the consequence was rationalized or became a “pity party.” Once recognized, those situations blossomed into better behavior, but there was a long time when the seed lay dormant due to trusting my thinking.
Most likely, your intervention to rescue someone helps the seed lay dormant and prevents it from blossoming into a change of behavior!
What would God do? It is evident from God’s Word that He lets mankind 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. It is 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 do not 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). Since He has already forgiven you, He waits patiently for your return and confession (repentance is part of confession, or it is not 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 consequence experienced is not removed but redeemed and made part of the process that helps motivate your changed thinking. Even though it sounds strange to say, as stated earlier, the consequence may be the seed planted to grow new behavior.
Finally, the five steps are incomplete and not linear – a cycle or, better yet, 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 step 5 consequence.
So, while the first five steps are real, the FINAL 2 are also real –
Restore (and redeem) fellowship at repentance
The last step is not tied to forgiveness but to their repentance. That is the idea of 1 John 1:9.
Adding these last two steps more appropriately follows the model God provides. In fact, the process demonstrates His Image –
Powerful = boundaries, consequences, justice
Belonging = freedom, forgiveness, restoration
Without maintaining a constant attitude of accepting their freedom and a willingness to forgive and restore the relationship, you miss two critical elements in the process.
Please pray and consider applying it to your relationships TODAY!