Forgiveness vs Consequence
In the 5th chapter of the Gospel of John, we see Jesus healing a man who had been sick for 38 years:
"Jesus said to him, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk.'
And immediately the man was made well,
took up his bed, and walked.'"
But listen closely to what the Lord said to the man:
“See, you have been made well.
Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”
Just as there are physical laws, for example the law of gravity, if you throw a ball up it will come back down, so also there are spiritual laws. Sin carries consequences and can produce afflictions that can affect families for generations.
"...forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
by no means clearing the guilty,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
We must understand that there is a difference between forgiveness and consequence. A woman caught in adultery may come to God and ask for forgiveness and receive it, but if she became pregnant that consequence isn't going to disappear. A man who committed murder may come to God and ask for forgiveness and receive it, but that won't bring the dead person back, nor will it heal the loved ones of the victim. These are consequences that produce very visible results, but many times the results of sin aren't readily apparent, though they are just as real. Forgiveness does not remove the consequences of sin, and those consequences can bring affliction down upon the children even three and four generations away.
But afflictions are not ALWAYS the result of sin. There is a passage in John chapter 9 where Jesus had healed a blind man and afterward Jesus' disciples asked what sin had been committed which rendered the man blind. Jesus answered that in this case the affliction was not the result of sin. Actually the point in this case was the testimony that would follow the man's healing.
We are not able to discern the causes of afflictions, some are the consequences of sin but others are not. Nevertheless the point is clearly made that sin DOES inherently bring consequences and afflictions and this should motivate us to avoid sin lest consequences bring affliction not only to ourselves but even to our children three and four generations away.
One evening I was praying for a friend who was afflicted and in bondage, a miserable person but a believer. As I was praying, the word “tormenter” came to me. I was shocked for a moment, wondering how on earth that word had anything to do with the afflictions of my friend. I wondered if that word was in the Bible, so I went and researched it and sure enough ...it was:
"Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.
Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant,
just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry,
AND DELIVERED HIM TO THE TORTURERS
until he should pay all that was due to him.
So my heavenly Father also will do to you
if each of you, FROM HIS HEART,
does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
It was quite a revelation to me, that unforgiveness can be the very root of a person's “torment.”
One can always take their sin to the Lord and receive forgiveness. But forgiveness from God does not remove the consequences of our sin.
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked,
for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption,
but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."