Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When Your Skeletons Are Exposed

Sunday Night's Message

I spoke last Sunday night from 2 Samuel 21. My message was entitled "When Your Skeletons Are Exposed." I proceeded to talk about both the figurative and literal skeletons present in the text. I spent more time discussing the figurative sense (guilt). This lead to a discussion of the following theoretical differences.

Consequences vs Punishments

Sometimes we throw these terms around as synonyms. It is true that they are related, but they have very different implications. After consulting dictionaries and polling a few people's opinions, I came up with these functional definitions:
Consequence: The natural outcome of an action. The subsequent effect of a cause.

Punishment: An outcome of an action as prescribed and enforced by an authority or one with power over another.
Therefore, even though they are similar, there is one key difference: the enforcer. Judgement. The first is a natural outcome which could be positive or negative. The second is a deliberate judgement that is always negative. This analysis leaves us to two specific corollaries:
1. A consequence is not necessarily a punishment.
2. A punishment is always a consequence.
Perhaps an example is warranted in this situation:

Boy meets Girl - Boy and Girl grow closer - Boy and Girl do boy-girl things - Girl gets pregnant. Conception and the subsequent responsibilities of parenthood are the consequence (natural outcome) of their actions. Is the baby also a punishment? No. From a Christian perspective, a baby is always a gift from God. It is a blessing. It may remind the parents of their sin, but it is not a punishment for their sin.

Boy meets - Boy and Girl grow closer - Boy and Girl do boy-girl things - Girl does pregnant, but Daddy finds out about their activities - Daddy pursues Boy with Shotgun. In this instance, we have a man (Daddy) with power (shotgun) inflicting a punishment after judging that an individual (Boy) has done wrong. The difference between these two scenarios is clear. Judgement.

The Matter of Guilt

The point here is a matter of guilt. In the text (2 Samuel 21), we find that punishment (famine) is being levied because Saul tried to exterminate the Gibeonites. The fact that the Israelites had to live with the Gibeonites was a consequence of their actions in Joshua 9. God never curses them for forging this alliance. In fact, he blesses them in battle in Chapter 10. A Gibeonite (much like Rahab from Jericho and Ruth from Moab) is blessed by being associated with David as one of his Mighty Men.

The difference, however subtle, between consequences and punishments is a matter of guilt. When we conflate the two, we are in danger of thinking that we are under the continual wrath of God when 1 John 1:9 assures us that confessed sin is forgiven. Still, there is no provision made for the consequence since consequence is a simple chain reaction not associated with judgement. Any consequence of sin becomes "corollary 1" after God has forgiven you. You are no longer under his wrath.

Psalm 32:5 promises that the guilt of our sin can be taken care of, but we still carry the burden of guilt long after confession. That guilt can weigh us down. I leave you with more reading on this subject from Princeton University. They have found that guilt increases one's feeling of being weighted down, literally. It is an interesting read on the topic.

Have you ever considered the difference between consequence and punishment? I'd love to hear your thoughts below!

Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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