Sin without Consequences
So many times when a Christian, particularly a conservative Christian, brings up something they believe is sinful–they’re treated as if they’re being hate-filled and unreasonable. When it comes to the same-sex marriage controversy, we hear that allowing someone else to marry doesn’t affect us. When it comes to teaching sexual abstinence to young people, we’re told that if we don’t believe in sex outside of marriage–then we shouldn’t do it ourselves. But we shouldn’t try to stop anyone else from doing it. We shouldn’t push our beliefs onto others. Over and over, we hear them say:
“It doesn’t hurt anyone.”
As Christians, we believe that sin has consequences. But the world says that it doesn’t. They say their life (a life of what we call sin) is actually a life free of such consequences. They’re free to pursue happiness, and can be happy in their choices–regardless of if we agree with them. Parents tell their children that their lifestyle doesn’t matter to them, as long as they’re happy. “Happy” has become the goal of our world. We (our nation as a whole) no longer seek holiness, and we believe our sin is harmless. We believe sin makes us happy, and that it doesn’t hurt anyone.
Last week a friend of mine filled in to teach our Wednesday night class at church. This same friend, along with his wife, did premarital counseling with my husband and I last year. We have so much respect for them! Last week he spoke on Genesis 3, which was a passage he had gone through quite a bit during our counseling. Lane and I had a great chance for a review of those things, and as we read the Scripture there was something that kept sticking out to me.
After eating the fruit, God called Adam, Eve, and the serpent to Himself; and He gave them consequences for their sin.
To the serpent, God said:
Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
Hmm….it seems the serpent is still suffering from these consequences! But what about the man? After eating the fruit, God told Adam:
Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.
We still see these consequences today, too. When farming the land to grow food–it is HARD work! Just ask any farmer! They may have machinery today, but still they labor and toil by the sweat of their brow as they harvest that food. And the final consequence is the physical death we all experience at the end of life.
Something struck me though, when I came across the consequences God gave to the woman. God said to Eve:
I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.
So because of sin, women were to experience great pain in childbirth, and in the pregnancy process as well. The woman’s husband would rule over her, but her desire would be to overpower him. (According to most commentaries & theologians, the phrase “desire shall be for your husband” implies that she will desire to have control over him.) When I look at our country today, very few women experience such great pain. There are a few women who choose to have a ‘natural’ childbirth, and some who arrive at the hospital too late for an epidural. But overall, science has given us such wonderful medicine that keeps women from experiencing the worst of the pain. I’ve even been called by a woman before, about 10 minutes before her baby was born. In my shock I asked her, “Aren’t you in the hospital and about to give BIRTH???” And to that she responded, “Girl–I don’t feel a thing!” I understand that many women experience a lot more pain that she did, especially outside of the U.S. But we’re well on our way to having the technology that will completely eliminate this consequence of sin. If you don’t want to bring forth your children in pain, then you don’t have to!
And the other consequence? That a woman would desire to have control over her husband, but that he would rule over her. In so many countries this is true. And it can be true in America as well. But here in our country it is so rarely seen. The rise of feminism has led women to take control, and has led men to allow it. It’s rare that a husband will ever refer to himself in a way that implies he has authority over his wife. Women have learned how to control their husbands, and society has embraced this as women’s role. I’ve been reading The Feminine Mistake, by Mary Kassian. The book is basically an overview of the history of feminism. She suggests that feminism began with a woman’s right to ‘name herself’. They did so by breaking down the Judeo-Christian view of womanhood, and then rebuilding the concept of womanhood to be whatever she wanted. After this evolution of womanhood, a conflict was created between this new idea of womanhood and the original view of manhood. They no longer complemented each other. In fact, they greatly clashed. And so women were then ‘forced’ to deconstruct the Judeo-Christian view of manhood. And men allowed it! (I believe that the men in these women’s lives loved them, and did not WANT them to feel as if they were oppressed. Men did not desire the role of “house-husband” and so felt guilty ascribing that role to their wives, knowing their wives did not want it.) I could go further in the journey of feminism, but as it relates to this post I see no need. Because of feminism, women no longer needed to strain for control. Men would no longer rule over them. Instead, they were now equal partners, and neither of them could ever ‘trump’ the other.
And so it would seem that women are basically free from the consequences of sin. In days past Christians could still use the consequences of sin as a way to urge righteous living. Those who had sex outside of marriage could get pregnant. Today, birth control pills and condoms are easily accessible–even to teens, and even without parental consent. Even if they haven’t used protection, they can now use the morning-after-pill. And even if they fail to take the morning-after-pill, abortion is allowed. No woman HAS to face this particular consequence of sex if she doesn’t choose to.
STD’s have also been a strong way to encourage refraining from sex outside of marriage. But today STD’s have become incredibly common, and most of them can be treated or even cured. Science gives us a way out of that, too. Young women used to know that it would be hard to find a husband if they had been sexually active with other men. But society has changed, and many men now expect that a woman has been sexually active. It’s rare that a person’s reputation is even affected by having sex before marriage. There are many other sins that I could examine that would display this same concept. Science, technology, and the changing of moral values have removed or lessened the consequences of sin in our society.
And so, looking through the world’s eyes, it may seem true to say that your sin “doesn’t hurt anyone.” But the truth is–it hurts you. It hurts your family. Your children. And the world around you. See, when looking only at the consequences God gave Adam and Eve for their sin, I failed to see the whole picture. If I look ahead in Genesis 3, I see that immediately after giving these consequences God proceeded to slaughter an animal in order to clothe Adam and Eve. This is the first physical death that is seen in the Bible. God slaughters one of His created animals (which He had said was “very good” in the previous chapter), and He does it to cover the nakedness (the sin) of Adam and Eve–His PRIZE creation! When we keep reading we see His plan that will restore fellowship with man. Man’s sin had created a rift in that fellowship. No longer could Adam walk in the garden with God. But God’s plan would allow the possibility of that fellowship to re-enter the picture. We see this many times throughout Scripture, but very clearly in Romans 5:12-21:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Wow! So through Adam’s sin, there were great consequences. But the toil of the land was the LEAST of these consequences. Much more importantly we see the consequences of death, judgment, and condemnation. In contrast though, we see that we don’t have to experience those consequences. God had a plan that can redeem us! Through JESUS CHRIST, we can instead have a free gift, the grace of God, justification (meaning YOU–a sinner–can be counted as one of God’s righteous!), righteousness, and eternal life.
We may be able to get rid of many earthly consequences of sin, but no level of science or technology can ward off these greater consequences. We simply cannot reconcile ourselves to God. We cannot escape His judgment on our own. But through faith in JESUS CHRIST we can experience His grace, and these many other blessings we see in Romans 5. Not only can we receive the free gift of eternal life and the grace that saves us from death, but we receive JUSTIFICATION. Through placing our faith in Christ and choosing to follow His path, he will both COUNT you as His righteous child, and He will MAKE you righteous.
Before deciding that your sin “doesn’t hurt anyone”, I beg you to consider your life in light of eternity. Do you have a life of sin that is separating you from God? Or have you relinquished that earthly ‘life’ in exchange for His gift of eternal life? Does your life lead your children toward faith in Christ, or away from Him? What about the world around you? Does your life make a statement to the world that “it doesn’t hurt anyone” to live in sin? If so, you could be living a lie that leads them to ignore God’s greatest gift.
For those who are Christians, I’d ask you why it is you choose to obey Christ. It shouldn’t be simply to avoid consequences. We accept Christ not as “fire insurance” but because we have faith in Him. We choose to follow Him because we want Him to make us righteous. Though we obviously want to escape judgment, our bigger goal is to please God. If we only follow God when His ways seem rational to the world, we’re actually showing that our “obedience” relies only upon what we want. When we want to escape consequences, we do what’s right. But when the consequences disappear, we do what brings pleasure in the moment. This, my brothers & sisters in Christ, is the very reason that the world labels us ‘hypocrites.’ Disobedience DOES have consequences, no matter how much we’d like to believe it doesn’t.
But OBEDIENCE is not lived out through the fear of those consequences. It is lived out through faith, and through a personal relationship with Christ.
For those of you who don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, I’d love to tell you more about why He’s so important to me! You can read my story here. Leave comments below, even if you disagree with this or have any questions about what I’ve written. And as always, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime. I’d love to talk with you!