But I’m Forgiven!
But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Romans 13:4
In my drug addiction, I engaged in horrible behavior. As I became more desperate to find my pills, and as my options ran out, I turned to my own ability to prescribe. I’m ashamed to admit it, but this is called diversion, and it’s part of my story. Once this was discovered, my life came apart. In the disaster, I got a call one day from two DEA agents who were on their way, wanting to talk about my diversion. It was terrifying as they drove up in their black car and black suits.
What did I do? You can bet that I prayed, begging God to get me out of trouble. At that point, I’d already been sober for a while. I’d stopped diverting pills. I’d asked God for forgiveness. I felt I’d received it. So, I thought, God should get me out of this. I’d learned my lesson. If God has forgiven me, then I shouldn’t face consequences, right?
This is a common misconception of ours as Christians. We often believe that since we’ve asked for and received God’s forgiveness, that the strings between our actions and consequences have been cut. That’s what forgiveness means, right? We mistakenly believe that since Jesus died for us, taking on our guilt, God now cannot punish or discipline us anymore.
Passages such as todays dispel this errant theology. In the narrative, Paul commanded followers of Christ to obey the government’s laws. He said that the government was instituted by God and carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Whether we’re Christians or not, when we do wrong, there are consequences here on Earth. We may be saved, forgiven for eternity, and be destined for heaven, but when we do evil, there are practical ramifications here and now.
I wanted forgiveness to mean that I didn’t have to face the consequences of my actions. What I had to learn was that forgiveness meant that my relationship to God was restored. In that relationship, I found blessed transformation. I still had to face the painful consequences with the DEA though. God used that pain to change me. It was part of his plan. I couldn’t see it at the time, but now, I can look back and be thankful that God didn’t deliver me from consequences.