Emma shut the front door quietly. Maybe if she could reach her bedroom without making noise, Mom wouldn’t hear and ask where she’d been.
It didn’t work. Just as she reached the hall her mother appeared from the kitchen. “Emma! You’re so late! Did you have to stay after school for something?”
“Uh . . . yeah!” Emma eagerly seized on the excuse offered her. “I . . . uh . . . well, I stopped to talk to Mr. Evert about Friday’s history test.” Once she got started with the lie, it was easy to elaborate. “I didn’t understand some of the notes he gave us so I thought I’d better ask him before the test.”
Her mother nodded. “All right, Dear. I was just a little worried. Well, dinner will be ready in about half an hour.” She turned back toward the kitchen.
In her bedroom, Emma turned on the radio. But it couldn’t drown out the voice of her conscience. You disobeyed your mom, it kept telling her. And you lied. Well, so what! she argued with herself. I wanted to go and Mom will never find out. Emma was so busy with her thoughts that she didn’t hear the phone ring. She didn’t know her lie was found out until her mom came in a few minutes later.
“Emma, that was Mr. Archer from the coffee shop. He said you forgot your history book when you stopped in with your friends after school.” Her mother looked at her sternly.
Emma felt the hot color creep up over her face. “Oh . . .” was all she could say. After a long silence her mother said, “Emma, your father and I asked you not to go out after school without permission. And you said the reason you were late was that you were talking to Mr. Evert about your test.”
Emma looked up angrily. “But it’s not fair! All the other kids go to the coffee shop after school.”
“I really can’t say anything about that,” her mother said quietly. “But I do have to say that you will be restricted in your activities for the next week. You disobeyed, and lied as well, and you will have to be punished.”
That wasn’t a very happy story, was it? But you know, it could have had a different ending. Let’s go back to where it says, “In her bedroom,” and substitute this:
In her bedroom, Emma turned on the radio. But it couldn’t drown out the voice of her conscience. You disobeyed your mom, it kept telling her. And you lied. Emma knew that was true. She knew it was wrong. It didn’t matter if all the other girls got to go to the coffee shop. What mattered was that she had been told not to and then did it anyway, and lied to cover it up.
Suddenly she was sorry. She knew her actions would make her parents sad, but even worse was how God felt. Slowly she knelt by her bed. “Dear God,” she prayed, “I disobeyed, and I lied. But I’m sorry, Lord. Please forgive me. I’m going to tell Mom what I did and ask her to forgive me too.”
A tap sounded on her door and her mother came in. “Emma, that was Mr. Archer from the coffee shop.” Then she noticed Emma was kneeling by her bed, tears on her cheeks.
“Why . . . Emma . . . ?”
Emma stood up, her eyes downcast. “Mom, please forgive me. I lied to you. I wasn’t talking to Mr. Evert after school; I went to the coffee shop. But I felt so miserable about it that I just had to get down and pray. I told God I’m sorry, but I want you to forgive me too.”
Her mother put a gentle arm around Emma’s shoulders. “Honey, I’m sorry you disobeyed. That makes me sad, but I’m glad your heart was open to God’s correction. And of course forgive you.”
This second ending to our story had a different feeling, didn’t it? All of us must learn that if we do wrong and do not repent of it, we will be judged for that wrong and punished. But if we turn to God, He will forgive us.
A long time ago men were so wicked that God decided to destroy the earth with a flood. Noah, a man of God, built an ark for those who would obey God. But only his family listened to God’s warning. They were the only ones who escaped God’s punishment for those who refused to believe Him.
Today, we can see a lot of ugly things happening around us, just as they were before the Flood. People are doing things they know are wrong, thinking only of themselves and forgetting God. God couldn’t stand sin and wickedness in Noah’s time, and He is no different today!
God gives everyone a chance to escape the punishment for sin. We can read His warning in the Bible, but some people aren’t listening. God tells us that if we will repent and ask Him to come into our hearts, He will forgive us. Just as Noah and his family were delivered, we will escape the next time of punishment that will come on this world. Before that time, Jesus will come for those who have been forgiven. Heaven will be their home forever. Then God will send punishment to the people left on earth.
God’s Word is true. Will you receive judgment and punishment—or forgiveness and Heaven?