What If I Still Do the Bad Stuff?
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? …And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…
I have known those who feel that their destructive life choices stand as evidence that they do not and cannot know God. They feel that their sin defines them as reprobates, damned by God. They have prayed time and again for God to change them, but they do not change. They continue to engage in addictive, toxic behavior, hurting themselves and those around them. I cannot be a Christian as Christians do not act like this…
This was the question I asked in my addiction. Am I a Christian or not? Do I know God or am I just pretending? I want to follow God, but what if I still do the bad stuff on Paul’s list?
Paul certainly did list a bunch of bad stuff in this passage and he did insist that those known for drunkenness, greed, sexual immorality, abusive behavior and dishonesty will not inherit the kingdom of God. This is a tough passage, as at first glance, it seems that Paul is saying that anyone who struggles with any defect is not even a Christian. This is a little terrifying as I have had more than a few struggles.
Paul went on to say though, that those of us who have come to faith in Christ have been washed, sanctified and justified. Though our flesh is not made perfect, God gave us a new spirit life in which He considers us righteous. Our identity now is not as sinners, but as those saved and made perfect. God is not blind to our failures, but in an eternal perspective, He sees us in the perfection of Christ.
It is true of course, that faith, if it is real, must lead to some transformation. While I can rest comfortably in the grace and mercy of God, knowing that all of my past and future failures are forgiven, if I use that grace as license to continue in sin, then it may be that I do not actually have faith. If I use forgiveness to continue to do whatever I want, then I am not following God. I am just fooling myself.
The problem of course, is that in our human frailty, we come to use this list of specific behaviors then, to judge others. If you engage in sexual sin, you are obviously not a Christian. God may forgive you once or twice, but if your life is defined by this behavior, you are an imposter.
In using the passage this way, I miss out on Paul’s point: If I am currently pursuing the desires of my flesh, I am, by definition, not concurrently pursuing or inheriting the kingdom of God. I may pursue life or I may pursue disaster. I cannot pursue both at the same time. I can be saved and still make a mess of life with my poor choices. If I want life, joy, peace and love, I must pursue God. I do not lose my faith when I fail, but I do produce pain when I pursue me.
Those of us who have asked what our destructive behavior means, need to understand this. God allows us to pursue self or him. When we follow ourselves, we manufacture our own misery. If we want life, we must be willing to do whatever it takes to abandon self and pursue him, every day.