I recently remembered an occasion on which I was paddled at school. I’m sure this happened many times; but, frankly, I remember only this one occasion (my parents’ spankings were much more memorable). As best as I can recall, I was just sitting at my desk, minding my own business when my sixth grade teacher flew upon me, yanked me out of the desk, gave me a whuppin’, and slammed me back into the desk before I even knew what happened.
My teacher pulled off what I still consider a miraculous acrobatic feat in getting me out of that desk and back in smoothly. I was slightly larger than average for my age, being taller and slightly chubby. And you may remember those student desks – one piece with a writing table large enough to support an open loose-leaf notebook and an open history book. A kid my size had to do a smooth maneuver, sliding into the seat from the side. What’s more, I didn’t know her age, but to this sixth-grader, she’d aged gracefully. And she couldn’t have weighed more than 90 pounds soaking wet, which was only about two-thirds my weight at the time.
We’ve all probably heard of spectacular acts, some even heroic, caused by fear or anger, but to this day, I haven’t the slightest idea what I did to empower this otherwise very kind lady to perform such a feat. Still, I remember it and some of the lessons it taught me.
First, big surprises often come in small packages, not all of which are pleasant. My teacher was petite, but she was full of energy that was mostly used to keep our attention and help us learn. Dynamite also comes in small packages that are tightly wound, which is what actually causes the explosion rather than a fizzle. I’m not certain what I did, but I sure got my teacher wound up.
Even the slightest sin has far reaching and very unpleasant consequences if we don’t get forgiveness. There still might be consequences in this life even if we’re forgiven, but they’re nothing compared to hell, although sometimes they may seem unbearable.
The difference between this life and hell is that, in this life, God doesn’t burden us with anything we can’t bear if we rely on his strength. Life in hell will be unbearable and at the same time inescapable and unquenchable because hell’s denizens can’t die to avoid the pain and God won’t go there to relieve it (Mark 9: 47, 48; Luke 16: 19-26).
Second, because the consequences can be so great, even in this life, we should always try to make the right choices, paying careful attention to what’s happening around us so the deceitfulness of Satan and sin doesn’t sneak up on us.
That’s probably what brought about the events described earlier. I probably turned my back to the teacher and started talking to my friend seated behind me. Had I maintained my focus to the front, I would’ve seen my teacher coming at me, paddle in hand; but, then, if I’d been focused forward, she probably wouldn’t have gotten out the paddle at all (Romans 13: 3-5).
God tells us what sin is and how to keep Satan from sneaking up on us so we can avoid the consequences. It’s our job to maintain the focus (1 Peter 5: 8; 2 Corinthians 2: 11; Hebrews 2: 1-4; 3: 12-14). When we turn our back on God, the devil will sneak up on us and then things can change rapidly having eternal consequences. Consequently, God tries to get our attention so we’ll get back on track. We must heed those attention-getters (Hebrews 3: 7-11; 12: 5-11).
Finally, I got paddled, but my friend – who also was part of the distraction, maybe even starting the conversation – did not.
That’s life – sometimes it’s a real whuppin’. I may face some consequences now for my sin while others who’re equally guilty seem to get off the hook.
We’ll likely avoid or survive the possible consequences of sin in this life, but we won’t get by with anything in the end when we’ll face the eternal consequences of unforgiven sin (Numbers 32: 23; 2 Corinthians 5: 10).
Forgiveness comes to Christians because Jesus’ blood continues to cleanse us, freeing us from the blame and eternal consequences of those sins. But this promise holds only if we’ve been walking in the light with him all along, remaining focused on our relationship with him and seeking forgiveness when we become aware that we’ve stepped out of the light (1 John 1: 5-9; Ephesians 1: 3-10; 5: 25-27).
Are you paying attention? Are you a Christian (Acts 2: 38, 39; Romans 8: 9; Mark 16: 16)?
Leonard Lauriault, church of Christ