Humans hate consequences. Since our creation, we have always loved to make rash decisions without giving a thought to the consequences. Just look at Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:6: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” We tend to forget to look at the long-term when the short-term appears so appealing.
Our distaste for consequences has even influenced a number of areas in our society. We created no-fault divorce so that people who marry rashly can get out of the consequences. We created very liberal abortion laws so that people can jump into bed and get out of the consequences of their choice. Even in my university classroom, my students do not understand that there are consequences for their actions. I have a number of students who show up late or don’t turn things in, but then still expect to pass or be given extra credit to make up what they missed. People just do not want to face the consequences for their behavior.
The problem with our distrust of consequences is that no matter how hard we try, there are always consequences in this life and the next. Divorce can wreak havoc on children and on those who got divorced for years to come. An innocent baby is murdered. Student’s graduate ill prepared for the realities of life. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” No matter how hard we try, we cannot completely mitigate all the consequences for our poor behavior.
While we may try to fight against the consequences of our actions, consequences are actually a good thing. Notice Hebrews 12:6 says, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” God lovingly gives us temporal consequences for our bad behavior because He loves us and knows that we are not making wise decisions. Just as parents lovingly teach their children not to run into a busy street, our Father gives us consequences for our actions so that we learn not to further endanger or hurt ourselves.
There is another, greater reason why temporal consequences are necessary and good though. Oftentimes, the temporal consequences we face due to our sinful behavior wake us up to the eternal consequences coming our way. While being spoiled and entitled is a very real danger of someone who has not had to face any consequences their whole life, a bigger danger is the reality of an eternity in hell separated from God.
I know many people don’t like to think about hell and think it is an overly-extreme consequence for someone who was “good” in this life. This shows a lack of understanding of eternity and of just and right consequences. In my country, if someone commits treason against the government, they are rightly judged and typically killed as a consequence for their actions. And almost no one has a problem with this. But this example is exactly the same as how hell is the consequence for our treason. Humans have committed cosmic treason against the ruler of the universe, (a much greater crime than treason against a country could ever be).
We stand judged and guilty and therefore must face the consequence of our actions. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” There are real consequences for sinful behavior in this life. But there are also real and infinitely greater consequences for our sinful behavior in eternity. Do you believe that there are consequences for what you do, say and think? Do you realize that your sinful actions will catch up with you in this life and in the next?
Instead of ignoring the consequences of our sinful actions, let these consequences drive us to our knees in humble repentance as we cry out to the Lord to save us. We reap what we sow. We deserve punishment and consequences for our bad actions. But praise be to God that He has made a way for us in spite of ourselves. When we realize we deserve punishment, it creates in us a greater praise and joy for all that Christ has done for us! “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25). Let the consequences of this life and the next draw you to the One who took all your consequences upon Himself.