Making the Faithful Choice

June 17th, 2011

Heavy winter snows in the upper Midwest and heavy rains and storms throughout the Ohio Valley in April converged in May to cause record-breaking flooding in towns all along the Mississippi River. From Cairo, Illinois to Morgan City, Louisiana, residents and businesses have been evacuated, and people are still waiting for waters to recede so that they can assess the damage.

The US Army Corps of Engineers and other local and federal government officials have had to make many tough choices about how to manage the water most effectively. Last month the Corps decided to blast a hole in a levee in Missouri, flooding thousands of acres of farmland but saving the town of Cairo, Illinois. Days later engineers chose to open the Morganza Spillway, one of five major spillways or control structures built along the southern part of the river after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. While the opening of spillways relieves water pressure on the levees downstream and prevents flooding in large cities, it instead causes flooding in smaller towns and farms near the spillways.

Between a Flood and an Overabundance of Water

Given the information and flood models that engineers had to work with, the Morganza Spillway was partially opened on May 14th causing major flooding in towns like Morgan City (population 13,000) in order to prevent flooding in Baton Rouge (population 230,000 with 800,000 in the metropolitan area) and New Orleans (about 340,000, with 1.2 million in the metro area). Any flooding or damage to property or life is devastating, and determining the course of action that will cause the least harm is complicated.

Fortunately few of us will have to make excruciating decisions about where to direct floodwaters. But we all face situations in which it seems like there are no good choices. This has been the case for as long as people have been making decisions: Abraham had to choose between disobeying God and sacrificing his son Isaac (see Genesis 22:1-14). David, after upsetting God by taking a census, had to select one of three punishments for the people of Israel (see 2 Samuel 24:10-17).

As we mature, we discover that not all decisions can be broken down to right and wrong, or black and white. Sometimes we have to choose between two or more seemingly bad options. And sometimes, no matter what we decide, we have to face unfavorable consequences. For example, we may have to choose whether or not to reveal a friend’s secret. Revealing the secret to someone might help the friend in the long run, but it would mean betraying the friend’s confidence. Many of us juggle activities and find ourselves in situations where we have to choose between competing commitments. Regardless of what we choose, we’ll disappoint someone. Unfortunately being faithful to God and following Christ does not exempt us from tough ethical dilemmas. But when such situations arise, we can turn to God for wisdom and guidance.

Responding in Love

When bad things happen, sometimes our first instinct is to ask, “What did those people do to deserve this?” When Jesus was asked about a group of Galileans who had been massacred by Pilate, he told his followers that these people didn’t deserve to die and that their death wasn’t God’s will. He said the same about the eighteen people who died when the tower of Siloam fell (see Luke 13:1-5). The truth is that we live in a sinful, broken world where bad things happen. We will have to make difficult decisions, and we will have to live with the consequences of those choices. Through it all we should strive to be faithful to God and to treat others with love and compassion.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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