Russia made news over the weekend when they launched a missile into space and blew up one of their now-defunct Soviet-era satellites. The debris from the downed satellite is expected to remain floating in space for at least the next few years, complicating missions for astronauts at the International Space Station and anyone else who journeys beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
As General James Dickenson, leader of the U.S. Space Command, described it, “Space activities underpin our way of life, and this kind of behavior is simply irresponsible.” He then added, “Russia is developing and deploying capabilities to actively deny access to and use of space by the United States and its allies and partners . . . . Russia continues to pursue counter space weapon systems that undermine strategic stability and pose a threat to all nations.”
Irresponsible seems like the operative word in that assessment.
You see, we can’t fully know what motivated Russia to launch that missile but, even if we could, it wouldn’t change the practical consequences of their decision. The debris would still be there, and every other country with aspirations of working in space will now have to deal with that new reality.
The same is often true in our lives.
Consequences beyond ourselves
It’s been said that we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions. Most of the time, that statement seems to be made in an effort to encourage people to have more grace for the mistakes of others and to try to see things from their perspective. And that’s a valid application.
It’s also true, however, that it should help us remember that our intentions don’t change the consequences others must face when we make a mistake. It should motivate us to be a bit more introspective and a bit more aware of the fact that every choice we make has consequences beyond ourselves, and we need to be mindful of those consequences when deciding how to act in a given situation.
As Christians, we are called to “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3—4).
That “selfish ambition” is not always the result of simply not caring about the needs of others. More often, it comes from an ignorance of the needs of others and how our actions will impact them.
So as you go through your day, ask God to help you be aware of how your decisions will affect those around you. Be intentional about considering the needs of others when assessing how you will act in a given situation.
While I doubt any of us are planning to launch a missile into space anytime soon, the way that you approach your family at home, the coworker next to you, or the person driving next to you can still have practical implications that extend well beyond whatever your intentions might be.