Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Law of Unintended Consequences

"What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means..." Rom. 6:1-2a.

We dubbed it Plan C.

Our core of young (age and maturity in the Lord-wise) believers experienced our own grace revolution back in the 70's. Most of us came from backgrounds of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. Meeting Jesus brought stability and meaning to our out-of-control lives.

Our Pentecostal church was filled with loving committed Christians whose lives stood out in stark contrast to the culture de-jour. We were exhorted to live Godly lives...or face dire consequences.

Grace, misinterpreted and misapplied, infiltrated our ranks with a ripple effect. Pondering the possibility that we were already forgiven of all sin (past, present, future) was a tantalizing idea to some former druggies. If already forgiven then, "Anything goes." Hence the birth of Plan C, a euphemism for licentiousness. My husband and I saw many friends go this route who now no longer serve the Lord. This is a great example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Let me explain.

In the book, Finding God in Unexpected Places, author Phil Yancey writes:

"The scandal of grace - God informing us of our forgiveness in advance - is probably the closest we will come to certain knowledge of the future...that very knowledge opens up all sorts of devious possibilities."

This might just be the most dangerous information God gave to us humans knowing our propensity to push the limits and mess up a really good thing. With Plan C one could sin now and say, "Sorry" later because, "Hey, everything's already forgiven, right?" Unfortunately the plan failed to factor in the Law of Unintended Consequences.

In this same book, Yancey shares the story of a friend who after fifteen years of marriage that produced three children, found his soul mate. (Hint: she wasn't his current wife). Contemplating leaving to take up with the new girlfriend, the friend came to Yancey for advice. His burning question was: "Will God forgive me if I do this?"

After picking himself up from the floor from shock, Yancey assured his friend that God would forgive, but this wasn't the real issue. Sin, which is rebellion, produces changes in us that are unforeseeable. His friend, right now, cared deeply about being forgiven. The person his friend would become if he followed the path he desired might not. That's the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Ultimately Yancey learned that the man pursued his passion and eventually turned his back on God. As far as Yancey knew, this hasn't changed. The man never intended to forsake God, but it happened. It was an unintended consequence of a very bad decision.

If we had advanced knowledge of all the ramifications of our actions we'd probably make fewer really dumb decisions. The Bible is filled with object lessons for our benefit. These stories of personal failures aren't designed to shame or embarrass those involved. They are warning to all of us who consider taking that same path. Things don't always work out as planned; they usually get much worse.

Grace isn't a license to sin (as if we'd need one). Grace demonstrates God's confidence in us to do the right thing, for the right reason. Grace assures us that if we should mess up, we won't wind up in God's doghouse. Repenting is recognizing our error, acknowledging it and then changing our behavior. We're already forgiven, and healing comes when we face the truth of our actions.

How about you? When considering violating Scriptural principles arises how does, "I'll just ask for forgiveness later." factor into your course of action? If you're not aware that all of your sins: past, present and future are already forgiven, how does this truth impact your behavior going forward? If you are willfully living in a Plan C environment what assurance do you have that at some time you'll repent? Are you really prepared for the Law of Unintended Consequences when kicks in?


  1. Mary: This gives me a lot to think about. I have heard of 'faith-groups' who actually have followers that believe this 'PLAN C' stuff. When I fell away from God, more than likely it was because I hadn't found Him to be real in my life.

  2. That "Law of Unintended Consequences" is something every Christian truly needs to understand!