“How long does a person pay for their mistake?”
This question was recently raised in a New York Times interview with Paula Broadwell. Remember her? She’s a writer who worked as a biographer for General David Petraeus. In 2012 when he was then serving as CIA director, Broadwell’s life was turned upside down when it was revealed that they had engaged in an extramarital affair.
The lengthy May 28 article by journalist Jessica Bennett describes the fallout from the affair, its impact on Broadwell’s career, her family and the invasion of her privacy by reporters that made taking a morning run a difficult task. She continues to “struggle to find her footing.”
In fairness, the slant of the article speaks to an unfair double standard that women often experience in such situations as opposed to men. General Petraeus has bounced back to some degree working as a partner in a private New York equity firm and continues to advise the White House on the war with Islamic extremists.
On the other hand, Paula Broadwell is still branded as a “mistress,” “home wrecker,” and “temptress.” She admits her “mistake.” She says, “I screwed up.” But then wonders aloud, “How long does a person pay for their mistake?”
Broadwell’s lament reminds me of one of the great passages of the Bible in Galatians 6:7-8.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.“
There is a divine law that cannot be dismissed. Ignored. Or flaunted. The law of sowing and reaping applies to Paula Broadwell and as well as all Christians. It involves three principles:
(1) You reap what you sow.
It is obvious in the realm of nature. A seed of corn is planted in the soil. Only corn will be the result. Not beans. Not watermelons. You get corn! And when you plant a tomato seed you won’t get a mustard tree!
(2) You reap later than you sow.
The harvest comes at a later date. Not the next day. Or the next week. No one rightly expects the fruit of their labor to be rewarded overnight. It takes cultivation. Fertilizing. Rain. Sunshine. It takes time. Then comes the harvest.
(3) You reap more than you sow.
A seed. Small. Seemingly insignificant. Forgotten. But filled with potential for growth. For greatness.
A single seed of corn can grow a huge stalk with one or two ears of corn. A single ear of field corn can have as many as 700 seeds. So, one seed reproduced itself 1400 times! Incredible!
It’s amazing that we understand this obvious law when it comes to agriculture, but miss it when it’s applied to spiritual matters.
The degree to which an individual may suffer the consequences of their wrong doing may vary from person to person and case to case. Does the world sometimes unfairly stigmatize one person over another? Absolutely.
While Broadwell may feel the consequences of her sin are greater than that of General Patraeus, he suffered a serious blow to his reputation, the advancement of his career, not to mention criminal charges, 2 years probation and a $100,000 fine for mishandling classified information.
You reap what you sow.
It may be that Ms. Broadwell, like so many of our day, looks at her actions more as a “mistake” instead of a sin. The world speaks of “an affair.” God calls it adultery. Like all sins, immorality produces its own set of consequences. It will affect some more than others. But you reap what you sow.
This divine principle of sowing and reaping needs to be constantly taught and reinforced to young and old alike. Our actions have an impact. For good or bad. And in situations like Petraeus and Broadwell the repercussions can be serious, long-lasting, and ruin our lives.
There is one bit of good news. We can repent of our sin. Ask God’s forgiveness. Receive His mercy, grace and pardon. And live in hope of a heavenly reward. Yet be advised. The physical and earthly consequences of our sins can remain until the day we die.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman