Half a God
Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more. John 8:11
Every time I abused pills, I asked God to forgive me. I constantly felt guilty, but I couldn’t stop. I found comfort in my belief that God forgave me no matter how many times I failed. I even threw this in his face the last time I relapsed. I can do whatever I want today and say I’m sorry tomorrow. You have to forgive me because you’re God.
What I failed to accept, was that even if God forgave me, I was still wreaking havoc in my life. Forgiveness doesn’t mean the strings are cut between action and reaction. I became addicted and engaged in destructive behavior. Then, in fear of the approaching consequences, I turned to God, begging forgiveness, hoping this would deliver me from my disaster. I think God forgave me, but that didn’t magically remove the calamity I’d created.
The addict likes the part of God that is all love, grace, and mercy. He embraces that God. He wants absolution, and so, he turns to God for comfort but then he goes on his way, never changing anything.
As today’s passage reveals though, mercy is only half of Christ’s message. In the story, the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus whom they’d caught in adultery. They threatened to stone her, but Jesus saved her. He showed her mercy, forgiving her sin, but then he also commanded her to go and sin no more.
As far as we know, Jesus didn’t miraculously change all the life circumstances and behaviors that led this woman to an adulterous relationship. Still though, he fully expected that she would do whatever it took to get out of it. Jesus forgave and he commanded her to change her ways.
This is the other half of God that we conveniently like to forget. We like a Jesus who forgives our failures, but we prefer to ignore the Jesus who demands that we repent and do whatever it takes to leave those failures behind. We want to be forgiven and continue in the old life.
In embracing only a half-God, we find only half-recovery, which is no recovery at all. If we truly want to know faith, life, and recovery, then we need to accept that the forgiveness of Christ must lead us to do whatever it takes to change.