Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Finite cause, infinite effect ... Until, unless ...

(Originally posted May 29, 2012;
reposted here with minor edits)

The butterfly effect is a term from chaos theory referring to the potential of a small initial cause having a larger ultimate effect. For example, the wind from a butterfly flapping its wings on one continent potentially influencing the direction of a hurricane halfway across the world.

The idea comes up in science fiction movies and stories involving time travel. Time travelers to the past are supposed to be abundantly cautious not to change anything in history for fear of ultimately transforming the future, or present, or wherever they came from and want to return to! Although I think Dr. Who may be the exception to this rule.

Newton’s third law of motion describes how every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This can be evidenced by two people on ice skates pushing away from each other; they go off in opposite directions at the same speed.

These notions speak to cause and effect where something happens and something else results. The results can spread out like ripples from a stone tossed into the water, going on and on.

We easily grasp and agree with these concepts. It’s intriguing to think about how stepping on a flower in the past can have a profound, usually negative effect in the future. Or how a puff of wind in Africa can stir up a hurricane off our east coast.

Yet, at the same time, we just as easily reject the idea that dabbling in some questionable behavior or exposing ourselves to some negative influence will have any impact on us or others.

Divorcing parents insist that the children will be fine. Viewers of racy soap operas insist that it has no impact on their thinking. Creators of gruesome video games insist that playing them for hours doesn’t desensitize the players. Makers of violent movies insist that it’s all just entertainment. Dabblers in porn, whether videos, magazines, websites, or books such as Fifty Shades of Grey insist that their moral compasses aren’t being harmed.

We claim there’s no harm, but we know better. Finite causes can potentially have infinite effects, for better or for worse.

(Note: This is not the same thing as Karma which is in no way a biblical concept or a viable belief for a Christian to hold.)

Sin can seem as harmless as the imperceptible wind coming off a butterfly’s wings, yet can create horrendously damaging hurricanes in our lives and the lives of those close to us.

In the beginning, when God created everything, cause and effect happened in a big way that ripples into the present. God created a perfect world that Satan just couldn’t leave untouched. We deal with the effects of the Fall daily.

God cautioned Cain, “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it’” (Genesis 4:6-7, NIV).

Cain chose incorrectly and Abel died. The impact of that bad choice reverberates throughout the world today.

We have free will and can do whatever we want. But each choice has a consequence. Paul advises, “‘Everything is permissible’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’ – but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23, NIV).

Destructive choices can create real consequences that persist for decades. The good news is that these consequences do not have to carry on into eternity; they do not have to have infinite reach.

As God advised Cain, all we have to do is make the right choice and we will be accepted by Him. The right choice is to confess our failings, turn away from continuing to do the wrong thing, and set our hearts on living a righteous life.

1 John 1:9 promises unequivocally that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This is the only way to stop the butterfly effect of sin from creating more storms.

Are you making good choices today?


Do you think there are such things as white lies? Do you think it’s okay for Christians to “dabble” in questionable things such as porn, gambling, drinking, premarital sex, or something else? Any other thoughts about this post? Please leave a comment below! I dare you.

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