A common question I am asked is, “Will God forgive me if I do [some behavior]?” While most people asking me this are looking for a clear “yes” or “no,” they unfortunately will get a more longwinded response from me.
Faith is just not that simple. Scripture is quick to point that God forgives us, but it also reminds us that God still desires us to turn away from certain things.
The apostle Paul wrestled with this throughout his life. As he tells the Church in Rome, Paul writes, “So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not!” To the church in Corinth, he writes: “Everything is permissible for me– but not everything is beneficial.” To the church in Galatia: “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.”
I think in Paul’s response to these churches we find a helpful guide. In current culture of self-indulgence, we do not need to be reminded that everything is permissible…rather we should ask Paul’s second question: is this beneficial? Not just to myself but to God and to the people around me?
My response to these questions has become, “yes, God will forgive you, but that does not mean this is what he wants for you.” Or as Dr. Wood preached this past Sunday, “Freedom to do, does not mean that we have to do.”
A life of faith is an on going relationship with God where we learn how to decipher what is beneficial to God and to the world; where we see that there are things larger and more important than our individual lives. That God has freed us for something bigger.
Why do we often want “yes” or “no” answers about faith? Are you surprised that humanity continues to wrestle with this question about forgiveness and freedom? How do you determine if something is beneficial to God and to others?