Recently I watched a documentary that made an unsettling impression on me. It was based on a tragic, true incident that had to be disheartening to anyone who watched it. It simply started out with three young men in their late teens and early 20’s playing a prank on a family one Friday night in a dark, rural area. As people say, “boys will be boys,” and these three young men were being “boys,” but before it was over, I believe some sobered up too late as they may have realized the importance of being responsible men who were no longer bent on childish, foolish ways.
Remember, the Apostle Paul talked about a time when we did childish things but we are no longer children, but now we are adults (1 Corinthians 13:11). The problem is as we grow older, our toys change, our responsibilities take on a more serious note, and our thoughtless, immature ways may end with harsh reality hitting us between the eyes.
The actions of these young men set up a series of events that, once the situation unraveled, nothing could stop it, and when it was all said and done, two families were destroyed and lives were forever changed. And, just imagine, it all started with a prank that seemed fun to the young men, but became a threat to a man and his family that escalated into blind rage that would not be requited until he was assured those involved would never ever again mess with him, his family, and property.
To set up the scenario these three young men were on their way to a party at a popular lake in the area, but they couldn’t t locate it. However, they came upon a house set back from the rest of the road that had a sign that spoke of being a Christian and warned of grave repercussions to anyone who would dare venture any further than the sign. The young men thought it quite funny and ended up shining their search light onto the home, causing the occupants to come out yelling and shouting threats. This also was quite funny and enjoyable to the pranksters and to commemorate their childish feat, they took a solar light.
The next day the three young men went about their business without any thought as to how their actions were being interpreted by the home owners. They had no way of knowing that the people they had fun with the night before saw their disrespect and intrusion as a dangerous threat to them. Anger was already present but as these victims considered the possibilities for the motives behind these young men’s actions their anger grew, turning into some paranoia and then rage.
Since it was Saturday night the three young men heard about another party taking place at the lake and once again it was agreed that they would attend it. Only this time three other young men were invited to ride with them to the party. Once again, they went in search of it at night and came up to the house they had already left their calling card with the night before. No doubt the three talked about the prank they played on the occupants with their companions, pointing out the “fun” they had on someone who possibiy appeared to be a religious zealot or nut.
However, this time the occupant of the house was ready for them. After all, he had no idea as to whether they meant him harm or not. They, on the other hand, were not wise enough to not go back to the scene of their minor crimes of disturbing the peace, trespassing, and theft. They had gotten away with it once without any consequences; so surely, they thought nothing about playing another prank on the man.
Since it was not a well-traveled road, the protective husband and father heard their vehicle and rushed to his pickup with guns and ammunition. By this time, they had stolen four solar lights and were merrily on their way until they realized he was following them. As their car speeded up, so did he. As they rounded a curve, the angry man thought he heard three gunshots come from the car. He began to open fire on them. He chased them to the end of the road where the young men’s car had to turn around in a field. As they came past him, he shot two bullets at the driver’s side window and it is then that the pranksters’ car came to a crashing stop. The driver was seriously wounded and the passenger in the front seat had been shot in the leg and was bleeding profusely, while the other four men jumped out of the car and took off running.
The man got out of the car and realized the situation was bad, but there was no cell phone service. He told them he would call for help. When he arrived home, his countenance told his wife it was bad and he was confused and shaken. The call was made to 911 and police and ambulance embarked on a terrible scene they had to sort out.
To shorten this story, the driver died and the other young man who had been shot had to go through much therapy. As the police did their investigation, they found three shell casings alongside the road where the man had heard the shots, but the young men denied having any gun, and the casings were not far enough apart to confirm the man’s story. The young men also told the investigators they had waved a white flag of surrender to no avail, which the enraged man slightly remembered.
The problem for the man is that he lied about his Military Service record and how some of the events played out. Since he was found in lies, those judging the case could not trust his story and in the end the man received 20 years in prison as a consequence for his unabated rage. As I watched the show, understandably the angry, hurting parents of the one who lost his life, presented their son as practically an “angel,” while the other wounded young man, who had been on both escapades, was blaming the homeowner for the events. Through it all I didn’t hear any of them addressing the fact that these young men were being foolish and irresponsible. They started the situation and were wrong, but the final results were unwarranted and an overkill by a man who was out of control when he addressed it. The Bible is clear we can’t let the sun go down on our anger because it becomes an inroad for such things as paranoia, rage, and wrath (Ephesians 4:26-28).
This is the problem with the world. The Bible clearly states that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8). We sow foolishness and yet we perceive that we will not reap foolishness in return, and if we do, we play the shocked victim and call “foul.” We play silly games at the expense of others and cry when the games cease to be silly and become real and we lose in a big way. We laugh at or mock the predicament we create for others who are “inferior” in some way; therefore, it is okay to use them as a clown in a circus ring for personal entertainment, but when they come out charging like a lion on the hunt, and all of a sudden, we find ourselves in its jaws, we stand like whimpering little cowards in the corner, while pointing at the “big mean lion” who we had been taking delight in prodding in the first place. We foolishly think if we get away with it here and there, we will always get away with it. However, each time we play the fool’s game, it’s like playing Russian Roulette—eventually we are going to hit on the chamber that will find us suddenly paying the consequences for our silliness. Ultimately, even in this scenario we conclude the consequences to be unfair.
As someone who deals in human nature on a spiritual level, I watch people’s response to the world based on their maturity. Some are like those young men, taking chances with their soul by thinking they can handle the world no matter what comes their way. Others are like the man, who for the most part wants to be left alone, but the world intrudes into their way of doing, and instead of handling it with maturity, they give way to the world’s attitude of settling the matter their own way.
I am aware of how people take this worldly attitude and nonsense into their Christian walk. They prod the lion, Satan by running in and out of the world, taking liberty here with some sin, and hiding their deviation behind some excuse because the God of Christianity can seem “unfair” when He fails to wink at it. I watch them dance around the edges of the world without totally treading too far into the inner court, taking a bit of spoil here, or there, like Achan of old in Joshua 7, without realizing they will eventually defile everything, and that they are trespassing according to God, opening them up for their deed to be exposed and judged. The problem is their deeds hurt others before they are brought to the light.
They can be like Ammon who lusted after something that was not his, and when he finally got it, he had nothing but utter contempt for it because it left him hollow. Perhaps they are like King David who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, failed to flee the temptation before his eyes, and as a result of pursuing it fell into sin that led to greater sin until the light came on and he truly repented (2 Samuel 11:2-5; 13:11-17).
The Bible is clear that our sins, small or great, will find us out. We will in some way pay consequences and when we do, we need to face it and turn from it in true repentance while we have a chance to do so (Numbers 32:23; Isaiah 55:6; 2 Peter 3:9). After all, if the young men in the tragic story had not shown up the second time, they would have avoided a confrontation with the homeowner.
As a believer, I have paid consequences so I will never do it again. I have also experienced chastisement in order to discipline myself in the ways of righteousness, and have tasted judgment so that I could understand the two distinct choices I had to choose from in order to make the right choice. As Joel points out, the world comprises the valley of decision (Joel 3:14; Hebrews 12:6-14).
This valley is where we make life and death decisions, and those young men, without knowing it, made a life and death decision when they visited the house the second time. If they had realized it, I am sure sobriety might have won out instead of foolishness. However, we do not know when we will come up to that invisible line where life is on one side and death on the other. We never know how immediately a consequence can rise up to chase us down like vulnerable prey. This is why we soberly need to be realistic about our actions and the possible consequences that may follow (Proverbs 24-21-23; 1 Peter 5:8). This sobriety is called discretion or prudence.
Every day without Christ we are playing a dangerous game of Russian Roulette with our souls (2 Corinthians 6:2). Every time we play the fool’s game, we end up being the biggest fool of all. When we set others up to be clowns in the arenas of the world, we end up being court jesters that become the tail end of ridiculousness or tragedy. Every moment we toy with temptation instead of fleeing it, we play a child’s game in infested shark waters. Every time we dare to move the lines of responsibility, we edge closer to paying consequences.
There are some people who seem to get away with every foolish or bad act imaginable, but each time a person fails to pay any consequences, it points to a wall of water building up on the horizon and when it hits the shoreline it will leave nothing but devastation in their lives.
It’s natural to play the blame game when consequences catch up with us, but one needs to realize that any indifferent, wrong or extreme action will carry consequences with it. Perhaps it might not be revealed in this world, but it will be exposed in the next, leaving the person silent about the consequences and without excuse concerning the fruit of their actions.