Currently I have a lot of time on my hands. One of the ways I kill that time, as many do, is by binge watching tv shows through streaming services. My recent binge of choice is the show Elementary. It’s a crime drama about Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr. Joan Watson solving crimes for the NYPD, a nice modern spin on the classic character.
For most shows I watch, I often will skip through the title sequence. It is usually pretty boring and the same every time, but for Elementary I am always entranced and amused. The credits are shown over footage of a Rube Goldberg machine. This machine starts with a marble rolling which leads to a gun shot and a wire being cut and a trap falling, ending with a close up of the marble before revealing the title.
Rube Goldberg machines are based on the idea of cause and effect. A number of different pieces are set up so that each previous piece will trigger the following one. In order to set these up you need creativity, patience, and an understanding of physics. (I have very little patience which is why the closest I’ve ever come is lining up dominos in a row to be toppled.)
These Rube Goldberg machines are very amusing examples of Newton’s third Law of Motion, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite re-action.” The creator has to calculate the effect that A will have on B and then B will have on C and on down the line. For simple machines with only a few steps, this isn’t too hard to calculate and set up properly. The current Guinness World Record for the largest Rube Goldberg Machine has 412 steps, created in 2016 in Latvia. That would have taken a LOT of thought and preparation. These machines are so popular that the band Ok Go made an entire music video showing a Rube Goldberg machine! (and it has a nice message)
It is easy to see how this can be a fun way to demonstrate physics, a fun way to display cause and effect. Cause and effect gets a bit less fun when it comes to our own actions in our everyday life. Unlike when watching these videos, in our life we often don’t want to think about all of the effects our choices cause down the line.
As difficult as it is, though, it is important that we as Christians take responsibility for our actions. All the way back to the book of Genesis, we see that humans didn’t want to take responsibility. Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the snake. Even with all of their scapegoating, there were still repercussions that they had to deal with. They were kicked out of the garden, Eve was punished with painful childbirth for all of womankind, Adam was punished with toiling the land all of his days under the hot sun. (Genesis 3)
The old God is seen as the God of punishment. We see Him destroying cities with fire, flooding the world, sending plagues, all kinds of different punishments for the sinful ways of the people of the world. Our God from the very beginning has tried to get across, in a variety of ways, that with our free will comes the responsibility for the effects of those choices. When we choose to go against God, there can often be terrible repercussions.
Jesus comes in the New Testament preaching the same thing. In Mark, the first time we see Jesus say anything, the first words out of His mouth were, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. REPENT, AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.” (Mark 1:15) Jesus knows the consequences of our sinful ways and He comes trying to save us from that before we ever have a chance to turn away from Him.
Every action in this world has a consequence. Often times, without realizing it, our actions are hurtful and cause a lot of destruction. Sometimes those terrible consequences are 412 steps down the line, and it would be impossible to calculate every single possible ill effect. BUT if we choose to look, if we choose to care, we can almost always see the effect just one or two steps removed from our actions.
This is when we must listen to the words of our savior Jesus Christ, REPENT! Christian people are called to repent all of their hurtful actions no matter how big or how small. The first step is to go to confession. We must admit that our actions were wrong or hurtful. We must come to God with remorse. Then it is our responsibility to try to make it right. If you hurt someone, you must apologize. If you lied or spread deceit, admit it. We must be honest with our brothers and sisters to find healing. We MUST take responsibilities for our actions if we want to create healing. Take some time this week and really reflect on your actions. When were you selfish? When did you hurt another? Once you have answered these questions, ask yourself “What can I do to fix it?” It is up to you alone to answer the question of "What happens next?"