Thursday, May 3, 2007

Does Forgiveness Nullify Consequences?

Evidently, some people hold to the idea that if they have been forgiven by Jesus, there are to be no consequences for them to face. Is this an actual Biblical truth that forgiveness means no consequences or is it just wishful thinking? Obviously, you can tell from my choice of words that I believe it is just wishful thinking. Let's examine an Old Testament passage first. Open your Bible and read Numbers 35:9-34.

It is evident to see that a person truly guilty of murder was not allowed to live. However, if it was without premeditation, the "slayer"(KJV) was allowed to live. BUT, he must stay in the city of refuge or he could be killed by the blood avenger. So while it is obvious that the person is forgiven, the consequences are that he must remain in the city of refuge until the high priest died. Forgiveness does not nullify consequences. Let's look at a New Testament passage now. Read John 20:19-29.

It is evident once again that forgiveness does not nullify every consequence. Now why specifically, other than as a sign, that Jesus still bears the marks of the cross is beyond me. But even though the disciples were forgiven, Jesus still bore the marks of the cross. Their forgiveness, our forgiveness, does not negate the truth that the Son of God was crucified.

Consider now for a moment that a previously convicted pedophile has served his time, paid his debt and now comes to your church. Without a shadow of doubt, the man has "found religion"/"experienced conversion" and now wants to join together with a local body of believers. Are you going to immediately or any time soon, if ever, allow him to work with young men or women in private? The obvious answer is absolutely not and for good reason. It is not that the person is not forgiven from what they have done, but we are not going to put the person in a position to be tempted like that, and we certainly are not going to allow our children to be the bait or the test. The safety of the children and the sanity of the parents rises above the thought of, forgiveness = no consequences. It may be that some time in the future the individual regains trust, but the fact remains, a person can be forgiven and yet still face consequences of their actions.
1. A young couple has sex outside of marriage and she gets pregnant. Does the fact that they are forgiven erase the pregnancy?
2. A person in a drunken stupor drives his vehicle through a red light and kills a family in another vehicle. If he seeks forgiveness from the remaining family and the Lord, does that bring back the dead members?
3. In a foolish stage of your life, you consent to getting a tattoo. As a result, you not only have a picture on your body but you also contract Hepatitis. Does forgiveness mean that the Hepatitis is removed from your body?

Lists of this nature could go on for quite some time but I think those given illustrate the point that forgiveness does not mean there will not be consequences to one's prior actions. One more case and point and I will close. Just because I have chosen to save myself until marriage and you did not does not make me holier than thou. And should I choose to not marry someone who did not wait also does not mean that I have in error judged them or that I am guilty of a double standard or any statement of the ilks of that nature. A life lived in holiness uncovered does make those who lived lives of debauchery uneasy. But if, if I have truly been forgiven of my past sins/mistakes, I will rejoice at the fact that someone has maintained holiness as a virtue. I will not castigate them, I will be encouraged by them. I will thank God for their faithful witness. And should Satan try to use that opportunity to tear me down, I will celebrate in the forgiveness and mercy that are mine as a child of God though I might have a visible scar or reminder of where I have been and what I have done.

Let us not lower the standard so that we feel more comfortable. Let us instead promote the standard of Jesus Christ and give God the glory for those whose lives reflect the holiness of Jesus. One day, we will be free from the consequences of our old lives if Jesus is our Savior. But until then, I will rejoice in the mercy and forgiveness which God, through Jesus, has so lovingly bestowed upon me and I will not think less of anyone who has maintained integrity where I have failed.

Luke


5 comments:

peter lumpkins said...

Luke,

I think your application of the principle of "forgiveness-yes, consequences-yes" to sexual predators is timely.

Presently, the church I am assisting is going thru a process to place thorough safety policies in place to protect both children from harm and the church from sexual scandal.

Thank you. Grace for the weekend. With that, I am...

Peter

Luke said...

Peter,
Unfortunately, it looks as if the church I pastor will be dealing with this in the future. When this particular individual gets out of jail, he will be looking for a church to attend. I've been writing to this individual and will not be surprised if he comes to the church I serve. Our entire congregation knows this man even though he was not a member when he committed his sin. If I may be so bold, after your church as trudged through the policy making, could I perhaps, pretty please, either get a rough sketch or outline of all that ya'll considered. Sunday night, we will begin our on policy as well.

Luke

selahV said...

Luke: how do we really know a person has truly repented? How does a church go about protecting without prosecuting over and over again with suspicion and fear? It's a very very hard thing to have committed a crime and then be welcomed back into a community which cannot move past that fear and suspicion, don't you think? Is that part of the consequence of the initial sin? selahV

Luke said...

SelahV,

Excellent questions. I'll attempt an answer for each.

"how do we really know a person has truly repented?"

Other than by Divine revelation, we can not know exactly/"really" know what is in a person's heart. We can discern from their actions(totality of life)if they have moved in a positive direction.

"How does a church go about protecting without prosecuting over and over again with suspicion and fear?"

Suspicion and fear on our part can only be dealt with through personal prayer on our part. When it comes to protecting, for example: our children or church finances, it must be seen exactly as that, protection, not prosecution. That some will feel prosecuted again is simply one of the consequences of sin.

With particular reference to convicted child molesters, moving to a new community will not help. Everywhere one goes, he has to register and so each and every community will find out about the past. This is a consequence of the crime. The "helpless"/children, need protecting from adults and that is to be the responsibility of loving adults.

David may help serve in some manner as an illustration. David was a warrior for God. He defeated and routed the enemies of Israel a great portion of his life. Eventually David wanted to build a temple for God but God said no. David was a man of bloodshed. God was not condemning David, David was simply disqualified. I Chronicles 22:8; 28:3. David was king and yet he would not be allowed to build the Temple. It was just a consequence of how God used him. It does not make David bad, God just had a different purpose.

With respect to convicted offenders, many of them know ahead of time the consequences they will face and commit the crime anyway. Consequences, however, do not make anyone more guilty or less guilty, they are simply the reactions to our initial action.

I hope my rambling has made some sense.

Luke

selahV said...

LUKE: yes it made some sense. I especially like the David illustration. Amazing what God can do with a crooked stick, huh? selahV