Now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world . . . Acts 17:30-31
Someone asked me recently what it took for me to get sober. For years, I’d tried to find recovery, but for years, I continually returned to my disastrous behavior. Now, I’ve been sober for six years. What changed? Why did I fail so many times, only to eventually commit to radical transformation?
God gave me many chances to turn from my way to follow him. I repeatedly refused though. So, here’s what it took – I needed it to be made painfully clear that my life was not going to continue as it had if I continued to use drugs. I needed to understand that I wouldn’t be allowed to keep my addiction, my family, and my career. If I kept my addiction, all the good things in life would be taken away. If I truly wanted my career and family, my addiction had to go. There were no other options. If I’d been allowed to keep both my drugs and my normal life, I’d probably still be using. I required painful consequences.
Consequences of the most severe, eternal kind are exactly what Paul described in today’s passage. In his sermon to the Athenians, Paul preached a message of repentance. He called all people everywhere to repent, because, he said, God will eventually judge everyone. Life will not always continue as it has. We won’t be able to live for ourselves forever. One day, we will face judgement, which will be terrifying if we’ve lived only for our own will. If, however, we repent, abandon our way, and follow Christ, we’ll know absolution, mercy, and grace instead of fear and judgement.
Even in my addiction, I knew this to be true though. The problem was, eternity and judgement are far off and abstract. I’ve always found it difficult to be motivated by something so intangible. To get through to me then, God was merciful enough to cause me consequences here and now.
God often uses pain to get through to us. The sorrow we cause ourselves now, if it turns us to him, is, in the grand scheme of things, a very small price to pay for our salvation. So, when we’re sick of the misery of our path, we must remember today’s message. We must repent and follow Christ.