Matthew 26:51,52 Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
I have known many in jail and treatment who genuinely found forgiveness in God, only to find that their loved ones were not quite as quick to pardon. Riding high on the feeling of repentance and absolution, the offender makes the mistake of thinking, I am a changed man. My family will be so happy. I will tell them of my transformation so they can rejoice with me. When loved ones hear of the jailhouse conversion, they are skeptical. They remember the years of broken promises and previous attempts at reformation.
The offender is now the offended. God has forgiven me. Why can’t you? I’m reformed! This man makes the mistake of thinking that being forgiven in a spiritual sense should translate into freedom from consequences in this life.
Jesus said in this passage that this is not the case. When the chief priests came to arrest Christ, Peter pulled out a sword (Peter carried a sword?) and cut off someone’s ear. Jesus chastised him, insisting that those who live by violence will meet with violence.
As Christians, we often think that following God means that we are mysteriously free of consequences. We think that we can walk a thousand miles in one direction and then ask that God magically transport us a thousand miles in the opposite direction. Paul says this is not the case, Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap (Galatians 6:7).
If I live a life of addiction, I am going to suffer the consequences. Likewise, if I live a life of greed, bitterness, lust, anger or self-absorption, I will pay the inevitable price. Being a Christian does not mean I get to study for a C and pray for an A.
We may be forgiven for all time in a spiritual sense, but in a very tangible sense, we still suffer consequences of our destructive deeds in this life. The greater the defect, the more obvious the consequences. One may suffer from a nasty case of bad attitude and not go to jail, but the one who is addicted to drugs may suffer immediate consequence when he or she falls. This reality was made all too clear this week when I received news of a fellow struggler’s death by overdose.
We often make the mistake of thinking that because we have come to God, we will just no longer wrestle with the flesh nature or its consequences. Jesus said that if we live by the sword, we will die by the sword. We reap what we sow. Even if it is a secret sin that no one ever knows, there is still secret destruction.
I accept a profound lie when I think that my sin is no big deal because God will forgive me. There is always some price to pay even if no one else sees it. If I purposefully turn my back on God and pursue self, that may be the price in itself. When I pursue me instead of God, I get me instead of God.