by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel
The cat keeps re-setting my laptop. Twice she has reset the screen orientation so I had to turn my laptop on its side if I wanted to read the screen. Do you have any idea how awkward it is to type with your computer standing on its side?
This time she stepped on the keyboard and called up a site for Tidy Cat coupons.
Actions have consequences. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes the consequences are positive, sometimes negative; sometimes they are the intended consequences, sometimes not; sometimes they are funny; sometimes disruptive, even tragic.
The book of Proverbs is full of warnings about consequences. One of my favorites is Proverbs 26:18-19:
As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, so is the man that deceiveth his neighbor, and saith, “Am not I in sport?” Or as we might put it, “Look, man, I was just kidding!” It doesn’t take a genius to know that even careless words have consequences far beyond what was intended. Nor does it take genius to recognize that “I was just kidding” or “Look, it was an accident. I didn’t mean to do it!” rarely serves to ameliorate the unexpected consequences of our words and actions.
For Christians it is a fearsome truth: God has endued you and I with great power—perhaps even more power than we fully realize. He has given us the power to hurt and to heal, and authorized us to act in his name. And the scary truth is, when we claim that name, when we claim that presence in our lives, when we testify that God lives within us and can be known through the work he has accomplished in us, people believe it! They actually believe that what you and I say and do reflects the nature of the God we claim to serve! The way we live, the way we speak, the things we say and do—all these have consequences. People see us, and what they observe they interpret as the result of our relationship with God.
I truly believe that most Christians desperately desire to communicate the reality of Christ in their lives to those with whom they come in contact. I also am convinced that most of us have little idea of just how inconsistent is the actual message we communicate through our daily lives, our careless actions, our thoughtless words. We would like to believe that the unexpected consequences of our actions can be dismissed with an “I’m so sorry,” “I didn’t mean it” or an implicit, “Well, but I’m only human, after all” and walking away. It doesn’t work that way. The heart—wounded by angry, unkind words—may never be completely healed; the life-—shattered by a negligent action—may never be made whole; the self-esteem—damaged by mockery, slander, gossip or bullying—never restored to health. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that!” doesn’t cut it.
Understandably, life today has taken on a defensive pattern. No matter who we are, we tend to look for the easy, most comfortable way, even when that choice means closing our eyes to the consequences for others. Christ asks that we surrender that comfortable pattern and choose to put others first.
It is not a coincidence that putting the needs of others first may be called a sacrifice. A sacrifice is the giving up of something that is dear to us. Jesus did it; his disciples did it knowing that the ultimate gain was more important than their personal convenience or comfort. Christ does not ask us to surrender our humanity, or even our enjoyment of our own humanity. He was a great advocate of joy; he came to make joy in its fullest sense available to each of us. He does ask us to follow him, to imitate him, to seek his mind in our choices. He expects us to laugh, to make jokes, to enjoy using the gifts God has given us. He also expects us to think before we act, before we speak, and—because he knows well the weaknesses of humanity—he admonishes us to look to God for wisdom and guidance in our daily choices.
We cannot take our Christian witness for granted, assuming that Christ will make himself known through our lives simply because that’s what he (and we) would want. It is absolutely vital that every Christian man, woman and child who claims Christ as Lord and Savior make a choice to:
- Daily examine his/her own life to identify those things that would taint or distort their living testimony,
- Daily petition that the wisdom of God guide his/her choices, words and actions,
- Pray for a consciousness of consequences, that the Holy Spirit will remind you to think—before speaking or acting—how others will interpret the reality of Christ in your life.
After all, it’s the little things…