One of my favorite stories about faith comes from my good friend, Todd Bell. Todd went through a long stretch as an active street preacher, and one of his favorite approaches was to find a bar and start a conversation with a prostitute.
Now, that could easily become a cautionary tale, but Todd wasn’t the sort to preach brimstone, or even to try and persuade them to change their ways. Almost the opposite, really. His opening line was, “Did you know that there will not be a single person in hell because of sin?”
…Wow. Probably a few of us in newer professions who didn’t know that either. Usually, the woman would understandably ask him something like, “what do you mean” or “are you serious." His point, of course, was that sin has been swept off the board—the only issue of note now is Jesus. Scripture makes it perfectly clear that there is no condemnation for those who are in Him, that even though we tend to get carried away with talking about rules, that’s not really the point anymore. It never was.
After that, another question would usually come up: “Do I have to stop?” After all, a lot of these women had families to provide for, which is probably why they wouldn’t usually show much interest in a preacher who condescendingly demanded the impractical from them. Todd told them, “Do it as long as you’re able.”
If you were raised in a church, as I was, that answer may sound insane coming from someone who claims to be a man of God. But there is a subtle brilliance in that wording, as long as you’re able. Because if you’re really serious about committing yourself to God, then sooner or later He’ll change you. “As long as you’re able,” means that you start with your relationship with God, and if you’re truly in a right, earnest relationship with Him, righteousness will be the result. In the case of one woman, she ended up publishing an LP (at least partially inspired by her experience coming to God, I think) and became an award-winning artist. God provided a way out for her.
The central, wonderful point that I draw from his story is that the rules don’t (and shouldn’t) come first. But if you commit yourself to God, with a sincere willingness to be right with Him, then over time He’ll bring you to a knowledge of what that means. Whatever your life might look like in the meantime is not only forgiven but justified by Christ. It doesn’t really make sense to demand right-living as a prerequisite to a relationship with God, because it’s completely impossible outside of Him anyway.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!
Dr. Alex Loyd