In the previous article, we considered the reality that breaking the rules (even bad rules, established by misguided or intentionally rebellious people) will likely result in bad results. Even if someone is breaking the rules for a good reason (like standing up for what is right, or trying to help those who are being hurt by bad rules), expecting the high moral ground to shield us from negative effects in a fallen world is often a vain hope in the short-term. (In the long run, the scales of justice will be balanced, but God’s timing is often different than our own – see 2 Peter 3.)
On the other hand, when the “cause” that we’re fighting for is selfishness and pride, and we rebel against God’s rules, we should not be surprised when the consequences of our sin is separation from Him. God’s rules aren’t going to change, and so it’s somewhat pointless to keep breaking them (especially as we learn more about the results of doing so).
Still, some people seem to think that they can get away with doing whatever they want to do, without experiencing pushback. When you break an government’s or organization’s laws, what do you expect? How can you directly defy them and still expect them to treat you as a normal citizen or business partner? If that’s true, how much more should we expect trials and sorrows when we break the rules of the God of the universe?
The same is true about following Jesus: Doing the right thing and giving your life over to Him will produce trials and persecution in a fallen, sinful world. This isn’t a possibility; it is a certainty. (See John 16:33, for instance.) Following Jesus is not something we do just for the perks, or to obtain freedom from trials. There is a cost (see Luke 14:25-35). However, following Jesus is something that Christians choose to do because it is far better than the alternative, even as evil forces continue to battle against those who are seeking to do the right thing.
The choice to follow Jesus is worth the cost. The reward is a healthy relationship with God, starting during our lives here on earth, and the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. Consider this chapter from near the end of the Bible, when the final reckoning has taken place.
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Revelation 21:6-8 NIV
(Note also that the benefits of following Jesus have nothing to do with personal smugness, so those who have accepted His gift of salvation have no room to feel personally superior to those who still need to make that decision.)
However, while salvation is free to us, it came at a great cost to Jesus Christ. And, while being accepted through His sacrifice does not require any monetary payments on our part, turning our lives over to Him means that we give up our own claims to selfish choices, as well as our claims to deciding what is right or wrong on our own.
We should not expect to resist a well-established system (whether it is right or wrong), and not experience consequences. We may choose to push back on a worldly system that needs to be fixed, because the imperative to do so outweighs the cost. However, we cannot expect to willfully flaunt what God teaches us, and expect the outcome to be different from what He has told us it will be.
So, don’t complain when you receive pushback for doing the right thing; instead, commit to doing the right thing, even if you aren’t saved from the consequences (until the better world that we look forward to arrives).
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.