How Much Can I Get Away With?
When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. Acts 5:5
Can I use drugs and still go to heaven? The man asking me the question believed in hell and believed that God could save him, but he still had things he wanted to do while on this earth and staying sober wasn’t on his list. Honestly, I didn’t have a great answer for him.
I believe that God’s mercy means that I’m forgiven for all my mistakes: past, present, and future. Any future failure doesn’t cause God to abandon me. So, on the one hand, it seems obvious that a relapse won’t cause me to lose my relationship with God. On the other hand, it strikes me as disingenuous to claim faith just so I can feel confident about the afterlife, and then turn around and live however I want, hoping I can get away with it.
I realized in thinking about it that perhaps I was asking the wrong question. The more important question may be, Do I truly want to follow God or myself, and what are the earthly and eternal consequences of that choice?
As those who claim faith, we often twist grace to mean that we can do whatever we want, without fear of consequences. Today’s passage though, tells a very different story. In it, we’re told how a couple in the early church, Ananias and Sapphira, sold a property, pretending to give the entire proceeds to the apostles, while secretly keeping part of it for themselves. For their dishonesty, God struck them both dead.
The passage doesn’t mention their status in the afterlife, but the lesson remains. Our actions have consequences. In our destructive behavior, we can wreak havoc on our lives and the lives of our loved ones. We can even fail so badly that it leads to death. Believing in God doesn’t mean we can act like addicts and magically avoid the repercussions. We flirt with disaster when we live asking, How much can I get away with?
So, can I use drugs and be forgiven? Yes, of course. Is it possible though, that there are those who fool themselves into thinking they have faith, using grace to ease their conscience, while living however they want? There are clearly those who have a fake faith. While there is always forgiveness for those who follow Christ, we’d do well to take seriously the lesson of today’s passage, realizing that our actions have consequences. God’s mercy doesn’t mean we can get away with living however we want.