Truth and Consequences
John 5:14 You are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.
Over the years, I have met many patients who lament their inability to lose weight. Though they insist they eat nothing, they continue to expand. I have felt this frustration myself. I diet for a few days and I am still not skinny, so I become discouraged. Then, I see someone who eats whatever they want and I feel cheated.
Anyone selling a diet plan takes advantage of this frustration. To make a dollar, they promise the holy grail of dieting: Buy my plan and you can eat whatever you want while losing weight. There are no more consequences to your destructive behavior. Do whatever you want.
This is fantasy, but still I long for it, not just in eating, but in life. I sometimes wonder how much worse my behavior would be if all consequences would be removed. What if I could do whatever I wanted and not suffer any repercussions?
I tend to make Jesus out to be this kind of God. I see the God of the Old Testament as all anger and judgement, but I see Jesus as all love and mercy. Jesus forgives me and severs the connection between behavior and consequences, right?
Jesus, in today’s passage, dispelled this fantasy. In the story, He healed a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years. Take up your bed, and walk. Jesus loved and healed the man, but then offered him this warning. Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.
Jesus was not telling the man that he had been afflicted for 38 years because of some previous sin. He was telling the man that there are worse things than being unable to walk. He loved the man but told him the truth, insisting that there was still a connection between destructive behavior and destruction. Though he was forgiven by God for all eternity, he was not free to do whatever he wanted.
Becoming a follower of Christ means abandoning the sinful pursuits of our flesh nature. When we insist on engaging in destructive behavior, we will find destruction. Jesus offers love and forgiveness, but He does not abandon truth and consequences.
When I consume more calories than I should, I will produce fat. When I use drugs, I will become addicted. When I indulge in pornography, greed, pride, anger or my need for status, I will discover the consequences of those pursuits.
Consequences are not all the same of course. A brother I visit in jail is fond of quoting Proverbs 6:27, Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? The burns we suffer may be different, but we all will suffer some consequences when we pursue the desires of our flesh nature. The worst injury may just be that we turn our backs on God in our pursuit of self.
Jesus taught that the some of the worst pains we suffer may be at our own hands. Though the paralytic had suffered greatly, once he had been healed, it would have been tragic for him to return to self-inflicted destruction.
God does forgive us for all eternity, but this does not mean we are free from truth and consequences now.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.