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Does circumstance matter? Does traffic really make me mad? World Class Traffic Jam 2 by joiseyshowaa (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Does circumstance matter? Does traffic really make me mad? World Class Traffic Jam 2 by joiseyshowaa (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Are there ever extenuating circumstances for sin?  Does traffic really make me mad?  Should we as counselors even care about the situations in which people suffer?  Should we be more British in our advice?  e.g., “I do not care; just get a straw and suck it up.  I do not need to know what was happening; just build a bridge and get over it”?

What do we make of life settings?  How can we be better counselors for people who are troubled and troublesome?

To answer the questions posed, we must hear the tone and tenor of Scripture.  The Bible, all the Bible, must be our guide.  Perhaps, two general conclusions can be made.  We draw these conclusions from the way Peter handles difficult conditions.

1 Peter 4:12-15

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you,

as though something strange were happening to you. 

13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings,

that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 

14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed,

because the glory and the Spirit of God rest upon you.

15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler [this term signifies the one who tries to insert themselves in the affairs of others, to manage the lives of others—often through tactless social awkwardness]. 

Peter is writing to those being (presently, actively, repeatedly) persecuted by Rome (Nero was Emperor).  Notice a few truths from Peter’s words:

The trial is real. It is a “fiery” trial.  We acknowledge the difficulties of life.  Being sinned against, is indeed testing.

The trial is normal.  It is to be expected to suffer while living in a sin cursed world.  Our culture thinks it abnormal to experience affliction (thus, we are, in large measure, ill-equipped to respond well when suffering does find us).

There is another reality bigger than the temporal.  Spiritual realties are primary.  We could write ten blogs on the truths taught here, but suffice to say that Christianity holds that glory engulf suffering.  With God there is profit—eternal profit—in pain.

While suffering no one is EVER allowed to sin in response.  Of course no Christian should ever steal or murder or commit wicked evil in response to suffering, but neither should any Christian think it is ever okay to meddle in the lives of others.  Even if you should be being presently persecuted, you cannot seek to impose your kingdom upon another.  You cannot sin, ever, in response to being sinned against.

We then draw some concluding principles:

On the one hand circumstance matters.  It is in circumstance that our interpretations of life and desires of life are revealed, especially in trying circumstance.  Circumstance can be the fertile soil in which endurance (and thus sanctification; cf. Rom 5:1-5) is given root.  More often, however, circumstance is usually the reveal-er of idols…but in that it is also important (cf. Mark 4:35-41).

On the other hand circumstance does not matter.  Circumstance cannot make me sin.  Circumstance is never an excuse for sin.  Circumstance can never absolve me of responsibilities or afford me rights.  Pleasing God must trump each and every circumstance.  Thus, in that regard (obedience) circumstance does not matter.  Indeed, the life lived above circumstance can be a great witness to the worth of God (cf. Acts 16:16-25, esp. vs. 25).

10,000 Blessings in The Wonderful Counselor

Jim