Christian Living

Spiritual Life

The Power of Consequences

"Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death."

Wow! That’s a radical notion. And it seems extreme. Yet this law comes from the Bible (Exodus 21:15 ESV), before Jesus Christ descended to usher in the era of grace.

As unfair as they may seem, strong consequences can help prevent wrongdoing. An incident that happened to me at a US border crossing drove home this important point.

Several years ago, Debbie and I were cycling across America on our honeymoon. We needed to pass through a narrow security checkpoint, bicycles and all. The entryway was a cross between a revolving door and a head-to-toe turnstile. The metal latticework allowed glimpses of what was within it.

The challenge enticed me. It looked fun and harkened back to Jesus’s metaphor in Matthew 19:24 (ESV). Some theologians have contended that the “eye of a needle” referred to a narrow gate through which a camel entered a city in biblical times. Whether you subscribe to that interpretation or a more literal one, Jesus was emphasizing that a rich person only enters the kingdom of God with much difficulty.

I was facing my own eye of a needle. With some effort, I wriggled my loaded bicycle through the tight passageway. Then, I stood inside a small rectangle with fencing on three sides and a building on the fourth.

Debbie pushed her bicycle into the revolving door until it became stuck. The moment seemed so unusual that I thought it was worth capturing for posterity before coming to her aid. Our friends were not going to believe this predicament. I grabbed my camera and aimed it toward the turnstile.

Suddenly, the building door flew open. Out came a border patrol officer.

“You can’t take pictures here. This is a restricted area,” she snapped as she reached for my camera. “Let me have that.”

I panicked. Debbie and I had cycled from Oregon to New York with some precious memories on the card inside that camera.

“Oh, I won’t take any pictures. I promise,” I said, as I clutched the camera close to my chest.

“Delete that last picture and get on out of here,” she said.

As abruptly as she had arrived, she vanished when the tinted door closed behind her. I was grateful she was willing to look the other way.

Seizing the camera would have been a harsh penalty for an innocent mistake. Nevertheless, the threat provided strong motivation. No way would I breach this law again and risk losing some irreplaceable pictures. When we crossed back into the United States a day later, my camera was stowed away.

Assuming they were enforced, the stringent laws of yesteryear (Exodus 21 and 22) must have been powerful deterrents and commanded respect for authority.

Ramifications serve an important purpose. If border authorities allow everyone to photograph their security framework, the images can end up in the hands of bad actors whose selfish motives will harm innocent people. Scoundrels can learn how to breach security and use that knowledge to perpetrate additional crimes.

Thankfully, God places rules and consequences in our lives. They protect us. The stiffer the punishment, the more likely people will follow the rules. Those rules may even save our lives.

The next time you become frustrated with an inequitable consequence, remember that the law exists for the benefit of you and those around you. If everyone broke it, chaos would ensue.

Copyright © 2018 Tim Bishop, used with permission.

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