Wednesday, April 19, 2017

When Our Actions Choose Our Consequences


Maggie the Wonder Dog loves to roll in the mud, even though leaves and sticks almost always get caught in her fur. I'm pretty sure she knows, at least after the fact, that mud-rolling always ends in a bath.

She doesn't like baths, but she rolls in the mud anyway.

We're more like Maggie than we probably think. When we want to do something, we tend to do it without regard for the inevitable consequences that will result. I think this tendency is because we don't believe the consequences will happen to us. 

After three decades of medical practice, I can promise you one thing. They do.

Just last week, a former patient complained about a cough and shortness of breath. 

"Remember when I told you that you needed to stop your second-hand smoke exposure because it was causing lung damage?" I asked.

Yes. They did remember.

"Did you do what I said?"

No. They didn't.

"This is what I told you would happen, and it has." 

It sounds harsh, but they reaped what they sowed. They don't like it now, but the time to prevent their symptoms was thirty years ago, when healthy-lifestyle recommendations were first made.

When we choose tobacco use, alcohol use, obesity, a high-fat diet, or sedentary lifestyle, our choices put us at risk of dreadful consequences. In the moment, we seldom stop to consider whether we want the temporary pleasure of our choice or the long-term result of that choice, but we should. 

As important as health and lifestyle choices are, our faith-walk choices are even more critical. 

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote sobering words:

"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit..." Ephesians 5:15-18 nasb

Here's the Leanna Paraphrase: Quit being foolish. Make wise choices. Life is short. Do what's right, and do it God's way.

What is God's way? Jesus summed up the law in two simple statements of love.
Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as (in the same way) you love yourself.

Is it easy to love with that much abandon? No. It's impossible, without God's help.

Just as the use of alcohol lowers our natural inhibitions, being filled with the Spirit works in a similar way. The Spirit of God empowers us to overcome our "natural" resistance (or inhibition) to obedience, and equips us to love and live as Christ commanded. 

If we want to live long, healthy lives, we need to make healthy choices. If we don't, we probably won't like the results. 

If we want to live a life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, we need to make the right choices, too. It all begins with love. Love of God. Love of our neighbor.

It's a radical love that changes everything.

We need look no further than the life of Jesus and His disciples to see this truth. The first life that must change, however, if we are to have radical love, is our own. 

We'll talk more about a lifestyle of love tomorrow. For today, let's take a careful look at our own hearts. 

Are we choosing love as our lifestyle? 

Do we love only the neighbors who are most like us, or do we love those who are least like us, as well?

Do we harbor prejudice against those who make different choices in religion or lifestyle? Does that prejudice keep us from love?

What long-term consequences will we suffer from our failure of love? 

What changes are needed?

Radical love changes everything, so let it begin by changing us.

"Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4:8
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