Consequential Mercies

It was shortly after 7 a.m. this past Sunday when RJ’s phone woke us from sound sleep. On the line was a security guard from the local mall where we own several stores. “Mr. Dittmeier, we need you to come down here.” We’d been robbed, but luckily (this time), the perpetrator was caught in the act. San Antonio Police had been called in, and my husband needed to go in and press charges.

When RJ entered the room where the man was being held, he took photos to share with other mall merchants, causing the thief to become enraged. This young adult began shouting threats that as soon as he called his dad, my husband would be dealt with very harshly….maybe even sued.

I don’t doubt it.

We live in a culture that has decided that children and consequences do not belong together. Online groups praise parents who allow children to be defiant, self-willed beings, lacking respect for authority of any type, including their parents and, by logical extension, God himself. This is, as Dr. Phil says, child abuse.

A memory forever etched in my mind from my years working for MADD is a pitiful one. A local attorney of extreme wealth crumpled to the floor of the courthouse in a heap, bawling his eyes out. His money and legal resources had failed to keep his son from facing consequences. Having sent a teenage girl to a wheelchair for life, a young man with seemingly every advantage in life was sentenced to prison. Every time he had crashed a car, his dad had bought him a new one. Even after he’d paralyzed this girl, Dad bought him a new BMW. The world now came at this young man full force, bearing consequences which may have been avoided had he ever learned consequences earlier in life.

Another memory from MADD is when a father called to ask me to attend his son’s court hearing and implore them to not consider probation. “This is his third arrest, and I’m afraid he’s going to kill someone,” he pleaded with me.

“Who bails him out of jail when he’s arrested?” I asked.

“I do,” he sheepishly replied.

I admire that this dad wanted his son to finally face the consequences for his behavior (mainly to protect others, which is admirable), but where was the courage to say, “Son, I love you…and because I love you, I am not going to let you get out of jail and endanger others and yourself. You’re going to have to face the consequences of continuing this behavior.”

I get it. We want our kids to love us. We want them to like us. However, our higher goal has to be that our children will love, honor, and obey God. This starts in the home with the parents.

In Scripture we meet a priest named Eli who failed to use consequences to teach his sons. They filled their days with debauchery of every kind, blaspheming God himself. Eli pleaded with his sons to behave better and attempted to reason with them (1 Sam. 3:24-25), but they, having no respect for either God or their father, refused to listen. God eventually put them to death, “because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.” (3:13)

Throughout Scripture, we see God use discipline repeatedly to bring his people to and back to repentance. Hebrews 12:6 tells us that the Lord disciplines those he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. (ESV) At times, the punishments are very harsh, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, whom God struck dead in the book of Acts. We do not serve a God who winks at sin.

Consequences serve us. They interrupt our lives with the reality of the seriousness of our rebellion. They point us toward our need for our Savior, Jesus. They remind us that our sin is unacceptable in the Kingdom of God. They direct us toward repentance. Pity the man who faces no consequences for his actions. He will face them eventually. If he’s fortunate, he will face them in this world. If not, he will face them before our God in heaven.

The good news is this: Jesus died that we could be set free from the eternal consequences of our sin. While undoubtedly we may suffer consequences for our poor choices on this earth for the rest of our lives, we do not have to dread our appointment with our Heavenly Father. At the Cross, my sins were dealt with forever. Let this not lead me to a cheap view of my sin or my salvation, but to unspeakable gratitude. Let me direct my children toward a Holy God, an accurate attitude toward sin, and the risen Savior who alone can deliver them.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11, NIV)

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