Recent events have got me thinking about consequences. Some are fairly obvious – we know that if we touch something hot we have every chance of being burned. Yet, most of us have at some time or other done just that, hopefully not seriously. There are times when we fail to appreciate that our actions can lead to hurt, to ourselves or to others, sometimes with grave results. After the event, it is too late – we can’t undo things. The time to think, to act, is beforehand.
We will never be able to avoid causing hurt totally but there are steps we can take to minimise the risk. In a formal context, organisations carry out risk assessments but I’m thinking more about what you and I, as individuals, can do. We have to think more of others. Jesus said, “Love one another as you love yourself.” That is far from easy, impossible on our own, but with His help we can get there. If we were to be less caught up with ourselves and putting our own interests first there would be far less chance of us causing hurt to others.
I remember giving some children in church a tube of toothpaste and asking them to squeeze some out – plenty! Then I asked them to put it back into the tube. Well, they tried hard (and had fun doing it) but with little success. Linking it to the letter of James, I made the point that we have to watch what we say because like the toothpaste it is very difficult to take back words that have hurt, and even more so actions that have caused others grief.
The results of some people’s thoughtlessness and in some cases, reckless, even deliberate actions hit the headlines – often accompanied by an account of their tragic consequences bringing a salutary reminder that we need to think more of others. Jesus gave his life that we may be set free from all our wrongdoing – he lives that we might live life in all its fullness. Hard as it may seem – his grace is sufficient.
We all mess up, none of us is perfect but we would be happier in ourselves and make life much better for others if we thought a bit more about consequences – if we thought more about loving others and loving Jesus most of all.
Rev Dr Ian A McLean
Old & St Andrew’s Church