Great Buts in the Bible: Part 1

by May 17, 2011

The title of this blog mini-series has raised a few eye brows over the years. It certainly caught the attention of my teenagers when I was a Youth Pastor years ago. Maybe I shouldn’t use this title now that I am a Senior Pastor, but calling it “Great Prepositions in the Bible” just doesn’t cut it!

Hopefully you are keen enough to know that I am not referring to the gluteus maximus of any great biblical character. Instead, I am referring to the word “but” in scripture. It is a word that changes the course of the particular verse and at times provides a clear contrast for our understanding. I believe this little word is a powerful word we can learn much from.

The first Great But in the Bible is found in Genesis 2. God has created the earth and planted Adam in the middle of the garden. Everything is perfect and without sin. Then God gives clear instructions to Adam that lays the foundation of man’s free choice to reject God’s commandments.

Here it is, “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Don’t miss the first part of the command, “You are free.” Within boundaries there is freedom. Outside these boundaries there is danger and bondage. God gives us freedom to obey or disobey. We were never created to be robots. We have a choice. When we choose to obey, we choose freedom. When we choose to disobey, we choose bondage.

This but changed everything. Even within a perfect environment, clear boundary lines and consequences were revealed. God knows, without boundary lines and consequences, there is chaos. He is wise and loving to know without boundary lines and consequences, life is more dangerous.

It reminds me of when I traveled to China in 2001. Driving was chaotic and dangerous. Drivers would pass on the left, on the right, and in front of oncoming traffic. Sometimes there were lines on the road, many times there were not. Either way, they were ignored. I witnessed animals getting hit, multiple near misses of people riding bikes, and one poor old man getting clipped by a taxi. I saw him lifted into the air and hitting the pavement with a thud. The driver just honked his horn and kept on going. I kept saying out loud, “I think I’m going to die!” Upon returning home, I marveled at what I had taken for granted – orderly traffic!

God gave Adam what every loving parent gives to their children: clear boundaries and clear consequences if the boundaries are ignored. Was God being mean? No. Was God being cruel? No. The first great but in the Bible was a demonstration of God’s love. Enjoy freedom within God’s boundaries, but disobey and prepare to taste pain.

We do our children no favors if our homes have no clear boundaries. We are not loving our children if there are no consequences when disobedience is chosen. Not following through with consequences because you are tired or don’t want your child to feel the pain of punishment is only inviting greater pain in the future.

Boundaries are tough. Boundaries are an inconvenience at times. But just like guardrails on a twisting mountain road, they are there for our protection. Enjoy the freedom within the lines but beware of the pain that comes with ignoring the guardrails of life!

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