The Power of Consequence
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.
This passage, along with its context, has captured my thoughts and efforts over the last few weeks at my church. The passage teaches us the horror of bad decisions and how they carry consequences that are not necessarily seen. There is no reason to believe that Adam understood the representative nature of his existence. Nothing was present in the warning of God, that when he ate that forbidden fruit, that all of humanity would be under the reign of sin and its attendant consequence, the condemnation of death. Yet this is exactly what happened, and because of this, you, me, those little embryos in the test tubes, and that sweet old man in the nursing home are sinners as a result.
As a pastor I would say that the vast majority of my efforts are in the lives of people who insist on making bad decisions. And what is common to most of them is that they did not foresee the fulness of the consequences related to that decision. Whether it is the to ignore the opportunity to learn basic grammar in school or refusing to floss their teeth (as if I do this regularly myself) bad decisions are part of the human existence. I have people ask me to teach them to study the bible, but they do not know what a verb is, much less a preposition. How do I teach them? I tell them to learn grammar. Decision-time for them. Will they? Or will they decide that grammar is still not of value and that there must be another way to study the bible without actually understanding how words work together to form a coherent thought?
If there was one place I would focus on first it would be with the husbands and fathers. As the head of the home they are capable of either protecting and destroying many others through their leadership. The decisions many fathers make with regard to their household, of which they are the heads, will carry consequences that can lead to the sins of multiple generations. What do I say to a father who comes to me in my office with that deeply pained look in his eyes as he describes the cold heart of his daughter? How do I explain to him that he trained that into his daughter in so many ways, by ignoring the gathering of the saints, by not showing a love of the Lord in his home, by taking the spiritual disciplines so lightly, etc. When his daughter saw his eyes flow over the body of the young lady who walked by, instruction as to the truthfulness of the gospel was given. When he treated his wife in a harsh manner, instruction occurred. Years of this has taken place, and now a father is facing the unseen consequences of his many decisions and has found them to be gravel in his mouth. It is with much sadness that we see ourselves follow so easily the footsteps of our father, Adam.
Then there are those people I watch who seem to grow and flourish as believers. I notice that they all have similar patterns in their lives. One is a refusal to rationalize their sins. They bear the curse of Adam with the knowledge that they are now in Christ. They walk in an awareness that they are children of the living God and therefore they are to walk as such. This mind set affects their decisions. They make bad ones, but they are repented of as they come to light. They set certain parameters in their lives that set into motion spiritual growth. These are the ones who faithful come to church—not merely to sit and observe, but to actively participate, willingly worship, and seek to minister to others. These are the ones who are not looking for a way around a sin that they love, rather, these are the ones who have entered the fray and are fighting against the sin. The results are not always seen immediately, but the results are always the same. In the end, they are more sober-minded, more wise, and more stable in their faith than when they started. And as I watch their children grow, I see the good consequences of their parents’ decisions in their lives. For these, I smile and I wonder what God might be doing in the years to comes through their lives.