COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Steamboat Springs, CO-cropweb
Abijam began to rule over Judah in the eighteenth year of Jeroboam’s reign in Israel. … He committed the same sins as his father before him, and he was not faithful to the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had been. [I Kings 15:1,3 (NLT)]

Nadab son of Jeroboam began to rule over Israel in the second year of King Asa’s reign … But he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his father, continuing the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit. [I Kings 15:25-26 (NLT)]

“Where are the Flattops, Hahn’s Peak, or the Sleeping Giant?” we wondered. Smoke and haze from the fire-ravaged Pacific Northwest were obscuring the view of our favorite Colorado landmarks. The mountains and crystal clear skies had disappeared because of fires raging some 1,500 miles away. Reduced visibility from the smoke caused air traffic delays in Denver and posed respiratory problems for cyclists racing through the mountains. Satellite images show that smoke from these fires has covered a portion of at least twenty states. On our return east, the haze was still visible as we passed through Iowa.

Fire has a way of causing far-reaching collateral damage and so does sin. The chronology of kings in Israel and Judah are filled with stories of how a father’s sinful example was followed by his son and led the people to sinfully disregard God’s commands. Today, the abusive father is likely to have an abusive son, the adulterous spouse’s divorce hurts the entire extended family, toxic relationships poison everyone near them, and the children of an alcoholic carry emotional baggage that affects their own children. When the bad stuff hits the fan, it tends to spatter all over innocent people. Well, I’m not abusive, adulterous, toxic or alcoholic so I can’t spread sin, pain and sorrow, or can I? A few poorly chosen words, a sharp retort, a tidbit of gossip, a rude gesture, a bit of spitefulness, impatience and rudeness can also have far-reaching effects. That saleslady with whom I was clearly annoyed might well be irritable with her next customers who then will be short-tempered with the people they meet later. By the end of the day, my thoughtless act of rudeness may have created a negative chain reaction that affected dozens of people.

We talk of paying it forward when doing a kindness that will reverberate with more kindnesses. Unfortunately, it works that way with sin and unpleasantness, as well, and, sadly, paying unkindness forward with more of the same is probably far more likely to happen. Any time we fail to live as Jesus did, any time we allow Satan a foothold in our lives, any time we forget to respond with love, whenever we are inconsiderate of other people, that ugliness, just like the fires in the northwest, can spread far and wide.

Father, guide our words and actions so that the love of Jesus is clearly seen and felt by all whose lives we touch today.

The greatest need in the world is the transformation of human nature. We need a new heart that will not have lust and greed and hate in it. We need a heart filled with love and peace and joy, and that is why Jesus came into the world. [Billy Graham]

He looked out across the plain toward Sodom and Gomorrah and watched as columns of smoke rose from the cities like smoke from a furnace. [Genesis 19:28 (NLT)]

This wickedness is like a brushfire. It burns not only briers and thorns but also sets the forests ablaze. Its burning sends up clouds of smoke. [Isaiah 9:18 (NLT)]