Is there a certain way that God wants us to live? Does our freedom mean that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want, with whomever we want?
I picked up a new devotional book at this year’s annual conference called The Way by the renowned Methodist evangelist and missionary of the last century, E. Stanley Jones. Today’s devotion so perfectly describes how I think about these questions that I want to quote it at length.
Some people get results, others get consequences. We can see that at work around us. Some people know how to live; they seem to work with the grain of the universe; reality works with them. They get results in harmonious, happy, effective living. Others are not harmonious, not happy, not effective; they are up against it. The nature of reality is not with them; they are working against the grain of the universe. They get consequences.
Is there something here that always has the last word, no matter who has the intermediate word? A great many people don’t believe that anything here has the last word. A woman said to me, “It’s all right to do these things [meaning sexual promiscuity] provided you can get away with it.”
My reply, “That is a big ‘provided,’ for nobody gets away with it. The results register in you. You have to live with yourself, and the hell of being bad is a bad hell.”
I used to think that the passage, “Be sure your sin will find you out,” meant, “Be sure your sin will be found out.” It doesn’t say so; rather it says, “Your sin will find you out”—will register in you, cause deterioration, decay; you will get consequences, in yourself.
An attempt to manipulate the universe and make it do what you want ends in consequences. A young man wrote to the Duke University paper a letter to the older generation in which he said, “I’d like this older generation to get acquainted with this guy called ‘Kick.’ He is a wonderful guy—gives you thrills.”
I felt like replying, “Young man, may I suggest that you get acquainted with another guy called ‘Kick-Back.’ He is always a little behind the first guy and always has the last kick. You had better get acquainted with him, for everybody does, sooner or later.”
He overlooked the fact that when you strip off the first three letters of thrills (the beginning) you have ills (the end). It’s not the beginning but the end result that counts.
Apparently, we are free to choose, but we are not free to choose the results of our choosing. Those results seem to be in hands not our own. There is something here, something we must come to terms with, or get hurt.*
We have this hubristic idea that we can redefine sexuality, we can redefine race, we can redefine marriage, we can redefine gender, we can redefine salvation, we can redefine God. But in the end, we come face to face with the reality that God designed. Defying that reality will be just as effective as jumping off a cliff and hoping the law of gravity no longer applies.
“The path of the righteous is level; O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth” (Isaiah 26:7).
“O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. … Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:19, 21).
There is a way that God has designed for us to live. He has told us and shown us that way. If we live that way, we will have results. If we depart from that way, we will experience consequences.
*The Way: 364 Adventures in Daily Living by E. Stanley Jones. Abingdon Press, 1946, 1974, 2015.