What Good Are Consequences?
“One of the greatest barriers to forgiveness is the myth that forgiveness automatically frees our offender from any consequences for his actions” (When Forgiveness Doesn’t Make Sense, Jeffress p. 88). While we should never forget that God’s forgiveness removes eternal consequences for sin (1 John 1:9, 1 Peter 2:24, 3:18, Romans 6:23), there are many examples in the Bible when people still had to face the physical ramifications of their misdeeds. For example, notice David’s consequences in 2 Samuel 12:10-14:
“Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife…I will raise up evil against you from your own household…Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun...”
Consequences are a warning to others“Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning” (1 Timothy 5:20). “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things” (Acts 5:11). In David’s case, the consequences he experienced after being forgiven by God served as a warning to the entire nation that even the king was not above the price of sin in the flesh. Thus, consequences serve as a powerful deterrent in a society, church, or family.
Consequences may serve as justice for someone who cannot speakWho speaks for Uriah in the entire story of 2 Samuel 11-12? Sometimes our sins quiet the innocent, and the penalties serve not only ourselves and those who observe, but also the silent victims. David was not to be enriched through his sin, and every future consequence would serve as a memorial to the innocent, betrayed Uriah.
Remember What You Have EscapedInstead of being upset or discouraged over lingering consequences, we should be grateful that we are even alive to suffer them. There have been times that God has not given such gracious time for self-reflection and correction (Acts 5:1ff, 2 Samuel 6:6-7). The penalty for many sins in the Old Testament was immediate execution by either stoning or hanging (Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 24:15-16, Exodus 22:20, Leviticus 20:27, Leviticus 18:19, etc.). “Grace means that God, in forgiving you, does not kill you (Romans 1:32). Grace means that God, in forgiving you, gives you the strength to endure the consequences. Grace frees us so that we can obey our Lord. View those consequences as a gift designed to keep you close to the Father who loves you” (Jeffress pp. 104, 105).