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The Impact of My Choices on Others

The Impact of My Choices on Others

By Paul R. Blake

            “It’s my life! I can do whatever I want to with it, and you can’t judge me!” Is often the response made to some caring disciple who through love takes the risk of encouraging erring and fallen Christians to be restored to the faith and fellowship of God and His children. I question, not just the selfish nature of such a rejoinder, but also the ignorance that generated it.

            First, it’s not “my life,” it’s God’s life. He gave it, He sustains it, and He has the power to take it away. Our lives and the bodies that house our lives belong to God; we simply hold them in stewardship, and we will give an account to Him regarding how well or poorly we used our lives and bodies. (1Cor. 6:19-20)

            Second, we cannot choose to commit a sin without having an impact on others. We protest loudly when the sins of others cause us pain or loss. Foolishly, we measure the heinousness of sin based on how many others are hurt by them. In so doing, we have developed a concept that is unscriptural in nature and senseless in practice; that is, we think that there are some sins we can commit that hurts no one. Nothing can be further from the truth.

            Consider the account of the dishonesty of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. They lied about the gift they freely gave for the work of the church at Jerusalem by implying that they had given to the apostles the entire proceeds of the sale of a property. At first reading, most would reason that no one was really hurt by that lie, and that perhaps the punishment far exceeded the scope of impact of their lie. Such reasoning is erring and ignorant.

            Peter rebuked Ananias by saying, “Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” Ananias put his soul at risk of condemnation by lying, but the impact of his sin did not stop there. Note that the text says that he lied to God as well. The sin he committed not only impacted his soul, but created a breach in the relationship he had with God Who loves him. He also involved his wife Sapphira who shared in the sin of lying and harming her soul and damaging her relationship with God as well. Now there are four or more persons impacted by the lie: Ananias, Sapphira, God, and the apostles. In addition, there would be an impact on others in the early days of the church should the lie be discovered (and lies are often exposed, in spite of the efforts of the liars), thus leading other younger and more easily influenced disciples astray. As a result their sin would have an adverse effect on the work and purposes of God and the Holy Spirit who were depending on the credibility of the first Christians in the days when the church was first beginning to spread the Gospel.

            Imagine how much it would hurt the preaching of the word, if those in the community thought that Christians couldn't be trusted to tell the truth. In this sense, because it directly impacted God and the Spirit's purposes, Peter charges them with lying to Deity, and not just to men. It reminds us that our sins not only affect us, they also hurt many others, meaning that we sinned against them, too. And, beyond dispute, we do not have the power to limit the far reaching scope of the impact of our sins.

            Every sin is essentially against God because every sin affects our relationship with Him. We sin against others when our sins hurt them or affect our relationship with them. Permit me to give you an illustration: if I were to steal money from the church offering, I am sinning against the church, because it is their gift to the Lord. I am sinning against the Lord because that offering belongs to Him. I am sinning against the community who will doubt the credibility of a church who has a preacher who steals. I am sinning against my wife and family because I would lose my job. And, I am further sinning against God because I have undermined His work in this neighborhood. I have not just hurt my soul with my sin, I have hurt many, many others.

            When we sin, it hurts others, not just ourselves, so in that sense we have sinned against them too. We will never say anything more selfish and foolish than “It’s my life! I can do whatever I want to with it, and you can’t judge me!”

Test Your Bible Knowledge of the Apostle Paul’s Companions

His grandmother and mother were Lois and Eunice.

He was sick almost unto death.

He was a runaway slave.

He shared a prison cell with Paul.

His name means “son of encouragement.”

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