Unintended consequences

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By Dave Henning / June 25, 2016
Lombard Street- San Francisco

Lombard Street- San Francisco

Mark Batterson expounds on Harvard professor Robert K Merton’s(1936) groundbreaking thesis on the “law of unintended consequences” in Chapter 20 (The Kingdom of Unintended Consequences”) of If.  Pastor Batterson explains that “the outcome of our actions have unintended consequences that are beyond our ability to control, beyond our ability to predict.”

  • These unforeseen consequences fall into three categories:
  • unexpected benefits– added bonuses

unexpected drawbacks– like the side-effects of a medicine that cures a condition while causing complications

  • perverse results– also dubbed the “cobra effect” this is when your original intention bites you back

Actually, the idea of unintended consequences goes back to the great Old Testament moral-philosopher, Joseph:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”- Genesis 50:20

Whether our intentions are good or bad, the sovereignty of God overrides them.  The Omniscient One takes every contingency into account.  Mark compares Romans 8:28 (“All things work together for good”) to Lombard Street in San Francisco, “the crookedest street in the world.”  Romans 8:28 is the crookedest road in the Bible- full of twists and turns, blind corners, dangerous intersections, and multiple-lane roundabouts.

It’s hard to trust God, Mark notes, when things go from bad to worse.  All you see is the perverse result.  Yet, Mark encourages, Romans 8:28 “promises unexpected benefits, even in the worst of circumstances.”  Pastor Batterson emphasizes that the key word is all.  It may take years or decades to see results.  Only eternity will reveal there are no exceptions to verse 28.  Mark concludes:

“You do your job, which is obedience.  And God will do His job, which is everything else!  He’ll order your footsteps.  And He’ll make the law of unintended consequences work together for your good and His glory.”

Today’s question: How has the law of unintended consequences operated following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss to work together for your good and God’s glory?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Scripture’s Rosetta Stone”

About the author

Dave Henning

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