Sunday, June 30, 2013

Forgiveness and Consequences

Every few months, a wonderful friend invites us to her farm for Barbecue and shooting practice. We are new to the delight of blasting little tin cups to smithereens, but we all enjoy it. And we have discovered that the gun owners in this circle of friends are some of the most self-reliant, responsible, patriotic, and good people we have had the pleasure of congregating with. Many of them are in law enforcement. And all of them have decided that the bad guys won't win without a fight. So they practice shooting at tin cans, and orange target circles, but they talk about if an intruder enters their home, how they want something that they can fire without giving away their position. These folks know that a day may come when they will need to defend themselves, and they take that responsibility seriously. It was a great day, until my daughter succumbed to the vicious effects of lingering in the hot sun, and we had to whisk her into air conditioning to stave off heat stroke.

But before the heat prostration, while munching turkey barbecue, one of the fellow gun aficionados asked me if I knew of the NC law that allows convicted murderers to go home on weekend furloughs. I was sure he was kidding, or misinformed. He was not. As soon as I got home I researched his claim. It is true. I was so dismayed by this revelation that I immediately wrote an article about it.

I am a Christian. I believe in mercy and grace. But I also believe that here on earth, we bear the consequences of our actions, and I believe that if someone takes the life of another, he or she should pay heavily for that act. I think stiff penalties not only deter the likelihood of others choosing such a horrific path, but also protect future acts of violence from the offender. I am increasingly disturbed by the notion that when the law is broken, we should forgive the lawbreaker often to the detriment of the law abiding. I see it in the discussion of amnesty for illegal immigration, and I see it in a system that rewards convicted murderers with weekend furloughs for good behavior.

When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, God forgave David. But he did not remove the consequence of his action- the child of that illicit union died, and David's kingdom was bathed in violence. David would not be the man to build God's temple despite his desire to do so, because David was a man of blood, having engineered the death of Bathsheba's husband. Our actions on Earth have consequences. David would ultimately be in Heaven with God, but on earth, he would suffer consequences for the sins he had committed.

I praise God that my sins are forgiven, and that I will stand beside my Lord one day. But I tremble at the harm I have done here on earth when I have veered from righteousness. Forgiveness does not mean there are not consequences of the choices I wish I had not made. To remove consequences makes a mockery of righteousness, and trivializes sin.

As my daughter discovered, when you sit too long in the sun, you fry. That's how we learn not to sit too long in the sun.

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. (Isaiah 58:1-4 NIV)

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