When Consequences Outlive Grace
When we started the church in 2002, our mission statement was “Helping people find their way back to God.” We had no clue what we were doing, we just knew we wanted our church to be a church for people who had given up on church.
One of the couples that helped us start the church truly had the gift of evangelism. They invited everyone. They invited neighbors; they invited co-workers; they invited parents at their kid’s school; they invited family members; they were the best marketing our church had.
About a year after the church started, our friends’ Uncle Fred and Aunt Judy started coming to church. Why?? Because our friends invited them. 🙂 This was huge because Fred hadn’t been to church in a long time. He had given up on God years before. For some reason, Fred and I connected. He was a little older than my parents but I loved how honest he was and how he just said what was on his mind. For the next few years, we grew really close to their family.
There were a lot of people devastated when I resigned in 2005 because of the affair…but Fred and Judy were at the top of the list. Despite their hurt, Judy reached out to me to tell me how much they loved me and appreciated me. Until this past Friday, we hadn’t seen them in over 4 years.
Fred and Judy both have cancer. Judy has battled it for almost 10 years…Fred for the past two. When Trisha and I arrived in Indianapolis on Friday, we dropped the boys off at the hotel and went to see Fred at an assisted living facility. He is not doing well and we wanted to spend some time with him.
It was such a sweet time to catch up with Fred and Judy. We told stories; we laughed; we prayed; Trisha sang a song for him; we cried. As we were getting ready to leave, Judy hugged me tight and started to cry. She simply said, “We miss you guys so much.”
As we were driving back to the hotel, I had this thought cross my mind: There are times in our life where the consequences of our choices outlive grace. No matter how much grace is given, sometimes the consequences live on. Let me explain what I mean.
My wife has forgiven me. Aunt Judy has forgiven me. They have both extended unmerited favor to me…grace. They also both live with the consequences of my choices. Despite their forgiveness, the consequences live on. For Judy, the consequence she lives with is that I am no longer her pastor. That doesn’t mean I’m not forgiven, but it is a consequence. That consequence outlives the grace that’s been given.
I’ve been struggling to process and articulate this principle.
I think too often in my life and maybe you are like this too…we equate the consequences of our actions with a lack of grace. If we experience consequences then somehow we must not be forgiven. I don’t think Godly grace was ever designed to take away consequences. It’s purpose was to take away the penalty for sin…not the consequences for sin. My problem is that I often want the easiest path possible. So when I say I’m sorry, I want all the ramifications of my choices to go away too. Sometimes (often) it doesn’t work that way.
How do we live in grace even as we experience our consequences? How do we not feel guilty all the time when we see someone else hurting as a result of our choices? Here are a few things I’m trying to do:
-Recognize the consequence of your choice for what it is and not a lack of grace.
-Remind yourself (daily) that God’s grace is truly sufficient.
-See the consequences of your choices as an opportunity to bring God glory.
This is as fresh of a blog post as there is…I am still processing a lot of these thoughts.
What are your thoughts about consequences outliving grace? Do you agree or disagree?