The results of a recent survey by LifeWay Research and Bible Studies for Life found nearly half of Americans (47%) agree they are dealing with the consequences of a bad decision on some level. Think about that. Nearly one out of two people you will see on the street, at work, in the park, or at church are dealing with issues related to a bad choice. That is significant, and should guide our thinking as we engage the people around us.
It seems people are constantly running up against the consequences of bad decisions. Try as we might, some things just do not work out. We decide to buy a car only to have something in the engine blow up three weeks later. We search and search for the best house only to have the water heater spring a leak two days after closing. (How much did we pay that home inspector, anyway?) It seems our decisions frequently yield unintended results.
Fixing problems after the fact can be difficult enough, but what happens when our bad decision involves God’s will? Specifically, what happens when we are overtly disobedient to Him?
As we consider the needs people have in responding to bad decisions, we need to help them see God does not abandon those who make bad decisions. Even overtly sinful decisions can be overcome, leading us to a new experience of God’s grace.
If we are to connect the unconnected, we need to be prepared to minister when people are recovering from mistakes.
How Jesus Responded
One well known example of this is Jesus’ response to the Apostle Peter’s denial. Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny Him in His hour of need. Jesus even gave Peter a marker from the animal world – the rooster crowing. Though Peter was disbelieving of Jesus, our Lord’s words were fulfilled. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times while Jesus was on trial for His life. When the rooster crowed, Peter wept bitterly about his denials.
Had Jesus responded to Peter’s denials with judgment or castigation, Pentecost may never have seen the Apostle preaching in the Spirit’s power. Instead, after His resurrection, the angel made it clear that Peter was still numbered among the disciples.
“But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.’” Mark 16:7, HCSB
Have you ever made a decision that brought a bad result? Worse, have you ever felt condemned for making the decision? Or, have you felt that God would never forgive you for it?
We are Forgiven
Thankfully, followers of Christ do not need to live with self-condemnation. The scriptures assure us,
“This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence, even if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things.” 1 John 3:19-20, HCSB
If God does not condemn us there is no reason to allow our conscience to do so.
God has also promised that our sins have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). If they have been removed so far from us, we need not go looking to bring them back.
God’s forgiveness is full and free. Even our most damaging decisions can be redeemed to honor and glorify Him in due time.