Over this last year I have given my life to Jesus and am so happy about it! His love can never be replaced by anything or anyone and I am so excited to live out His plan for me and glorify Him in everything I do!  But here’s a question I’ve been struggling with…

     When people say they love Jesus but still choose to drink or be sexually active outside of marriage, I know that’s against God; but will they still go to Heaven since they go to church and believe in Jesus?  It seems like then they would be receiving the gift of eternity with God without any sacrifice…

Dear Friend,

It is such a great blessing to hear that you have fallen in love with Jesus! That is His plan for all of our hearts – that we would know Him in a powerful way, so powerful that it would change every aspect of our lives and we would never be the same again. Last Sunday’s Gospel, as well as many of the daily Mass readings over the past few weeks, focused on Jesus calling the Twelve. In each of those meetings, Jesus’ call changes everything. The disciples drop their nets, leave their business, walk away from their fathers and mothers, all to follow Him. When Jesus calls, our ‘yes’ changes everything.

But something to note with the Twelve Apostles, and something to note about all of us, is that Jesus’ call doesn’t make anyone perfect. Even the Twelve who walked with Him every day made mistakes. They didn’t understand everything He taught, nor did they live their faith perfectly. James and John argued over who was the greatest, the group wanted to send away the 5,000 to get their own food, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times the night He was arrested… there are countless examples throughout the Scriptures of the Twelve messing up. While that may seem discouraging, I think it offers great hope. Those men had the benefit of spending all day, every day, with Jesus in the flesh, and they still made mistakes. That gives me a lot of hope that Jesus is patient with my mistakes, too.

If there’s one thing we can learn from the Twelve Apostles, and every other disciple of Jesus throughout history, it’s that none of us are perfect. And if there’s one thing we can learn from Jesus, it’s that His love is not fair. It’s extravagant. He shows us that in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20). The master of the vineyard calls new workers to his field throughout the day, and when the work is over, those who joined in the final hours receive the same payment as those who had worked all day. God is allowed to be generous and outlandish with His love and mercy, and we should all be grateful. Because if any of us got what we truly deserved from Him, it wouldn’t be Heaven. We all sin. We all turn away from Him, even when we are doing our best to live for Him. We are all blessed by God’s generosity.

That can be frustrating sometimes, because we are also all human. Even though we know that none of us are perfect, it can be a struggle to watch other Christians sin publicly. It’s painful, watching others say that they love Jesus on Sundays and deny Him on Saturdays. It’s also hurtful because of the potential for scandal – when Christians mess up, whether they repent or not, it makes non-believers look down on all Christians as hypocrites. That can alienate people from Christ, which is the opposite of our entire mission on earth.

Sin is divisive. It always causes separation, not only from God, but from one another. But as Christians, it’s important that we don’t let sin cause more division among us. If we focus on other people’s sin, we lose sight of our own. Remember what Jesus said about the splinter in your brother’s eye? Don’t let it keep you from seeing the plank in your own eye! Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned, and Jesus came to save all. We have to leave the judging up to God. If we don’t, we let the divisions caused by sin get more and more powerful, as they alienate us from one another.

You mention that it seems like those who get drunk or have sex outside of marriage will get heaven without any sacrifices. To that, all I can say it that we just don’t know. We don’t know if they will make it to Heaven, because we have no idea what will happen to any of us when we meet God face-to-face, but we hope for the best. We don’t know that state of anyone’s heart or soul, and what sacrifices they may or may not make for Him. We hope that, because God’s mercy is equal to His judgment, His mercy will prevail. We hope that everyone we meet on earth will be in heaven. We hope that our sins will not keep us from Him, in the end. Every sin, no matter how ‘big or small’ we deem it, separates us from God.

As important as it is to leave the judging up to God, I know that sometimes we can still feel a responsibility to call out our friends when we know that they are making choices that are taking them away from God. I’ve had that feeling before – I know that what he’s doing is wrong, and I feel convicted that I need to say something. But I don’t want to be judgmental. I want the best for my friend. I want him to know God’s love and live according to it. Fortunately, for just such a situation, Scripture tells us how we can proceed: http://lifeteen.com/the-friend-call-out/

I hope that this article is helpful, and also, I hope that you see the emphasis on the word friend. We are all called to witness to our faith and lead others closer to Christ, but if we try to call out others on their sin and we don’t have a relationship with them, well, that’s when we appear to be judgmental. It’s so, so important that we come from a place of love. And when we try to call out our friends, we must do so humbly and lovingly, acknowledging our own sinfulness and emphasizing that we just want the best for those we love. We even hope that they will help us grow in holiness by calling us out on our mistakes, too. Our ultimate goal is for everyone to make it to Heaven, and we have to help each other get there.

It is natural for us to see sin and hate it. Sin is the only thing we are allowed to hate – because sin separates us from God. But we are called to love sinners. And we are called to focus on our own sinfulness first, not our brother’s. We remember that God’s love is beyond our understanding, and we’re grateful that His mercy falls on all of us. One last verse – which challenges me so much – that I hope will encourage you: 1 Cor. 16: 13-14 – “Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Your every act should be done with love.”

Know that we are praying for you, and please, if you pray, say some prayers for us, too.

The REAP Team

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