Source: Creative Commons, Richard Freeman
“What we do now echoes in eternity.” —Marcus Aurelius
One recent morning I was listening to the book of Joshua & cleaning house, when a familiar story came on my audio Bible: The story of Achan in Joshua 6-7.
In this passage, after Joshua & the Israelites experienced an incredible victory at Jericho, a man named Achan decided to defy God’s command & keep some of the spoils of war for himself.
Because of Achan’s decision, when Israel faced their next (much smaller) foe at Ai, they experienced a shocking defeat which left them questioning God’s promise to them. Hadn’t He said He’d give them victory wherever they went?
“What happened, Lord?” they asked after the battle at Ai. God informed them that He’d departed from the Israelite camp because of ONE man’s sin!
“Israel has sinned; they have violated My covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies…
I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction…You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.” —Joshua 7
Achan’s actions brought God’s judgment upon the entire nation of Israel – cursing them all – due to his act of disobedience. What! That seems crazy pants, doesn’t it? Yet his actions led to 36 lost lives on the battlefield & eventually the loss of his ENTIRE family (including himself). What a WASTE!
Every time I hear this story, I feel a little depressed, like:
God, really? Where is the justice in an entire nation suffering for one man’s sin?
As I asked this familiar question today, it was as if He countered me with this:
What if your sin affects people in a similar way?
It made me stop & think. What if…? What if this was reality because, friends, I believe it IS true!
Achan’s actions were foolish, yes, but more importantly – they had an enormous impact on the people around him. If one person’s sin could infiltrate Israel’s camp and cause them to be overcome by their enemies, couldn’t we reason that our sins could have similar results?
While not every decision of ours holds such weight, we tend to underestimate the impact our choices have on the community we live in, especially our family. They experience the greatest consequences from our misbehavior, don’t they? Just as Achan’s family did.
Interwoven in this sad story is another, much more beautiful one: The story of Rahab the prostitute. This brave woman hid several Israelite spies in her home in Jericho, shortly before the Israelites conquered her town.
Because of her courage, the Israelites spared Rahab’s ENTIRE FAMILY from certain death in the aftermath of Jericho’s defeat. Just as one man’s sin opened his family up to death, one woman’s righteous act saved her family’s lives!
I don’t think God wove these two stories together coincidentally. He’s sending us this message here:
Your sin has a powerful ripple effect.
Do you believe that? Because our modern culture’s mantra is, “Don’t tell me how to live my life!” and “Only God can judge me.”
Really? Because what you do impacts my life, and what I do impacts yours, so we have a vested interest in each other’s behavior.
What if we embraced reality: That we don’t live in a vacuum? When we have a bad attitude, the people around us are affected. My selfishness hurts the people in my life – my coworkers, family, marriage, parents, even my neighbors. Likewise, your “issues” prevent you from being the loving person your community needs & may even drag others down.
Our actions matter MUCH more than we think. They can even change the course of people’s lives!
Living in Light of Our Ripple Effect
So what if we lived in light of this? What if we allowed our community to have a say in how we lived because, honestly, how we live our lives shapes our community (for better or for worse)?
I’m not talking about people dictating our lives to us. Our decisions are ultimately ours to make. What I’m presenting here is the idea of COMMUNAL LIVING, as opposed to living on our own terms, apart from the wisdom & input of others.
What if we didn’t buy into the lie that “my life is my own”? What if we shed the false belief that I’m king or queen of my island - because the truth is, we share this island with millions of other people! We can’t possibly live life without affecting the people around us, either by our actions or lack of.
Maybe we should start living this way, get our heads out of the sand, and realize our lives have a much larger impact than we ever imagined.
Because when we hold people at arm’s length and refuse to consider them in our daily decisions, we lose sight of our life’s ripple effect. We forget that we impact every person we encounter – in big & small ways.
When we live life “on our terms”, we forget how IMPORTANT our choices are & how much we can impact the world for good (or harm)! We also tend to forget how UNIMPORTANT we are. Life on an island centers around ME. When we recognize that our islands are interconnected, we start to see our lives in light of the larger whole and have a healthy grasp of the ripple effect our actions have on the waterways of other lives.
God gave us the powerful gift of choice, but what we do with this freedom could have significant – even eternal – consequences for other people… and most of all, us!
Is it possible that we’ve deeply hurt others or even caused spiritual (or literal) death due to living life “on our terms”? Have we forgotten the casualties we leave in the wake of our choices? And on the contrary, is it possible that our choices have the power to lead people to a better life?
I believe Scripture says “Yes!”
We can either be Achans or Rahabs. Who will we be? It’s up to us. We can live life to bless or curse the people around us. Let’s live in light of our impact, with others around us, & choose to be a blessing, not a curse!
Have you witnessed the ripple effect of your actions on someone else (for good or bad)? What was the result?