Mercy vs. Drug Addicts: How Many Chances Should Someone Get?


During this month of looking forward to Peace Camp, I’d like to spend some time each week meditating on things that make for peace, like mercy. That’s what makes our Peace Camp theme this year, “Second Chances,” possible. After all, a second chance is only possible when someone decides to practice mercy, to extend the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Peace is important to Christians because it’s an expression of active love, something Jesus is always trying to teach us. You have to practice love, build peace, exercise mercy, all those active verbs, because love, peace and mercy do not come naturally to us. It’s not always in our best interest to love others and practice mercy. If you received individual absolution on Maundy Thursday, you might remember the words you heard: “By the command of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all of your sins.”

That’s very different from, by the decision of Pastor Goede, you’re forgiven your sins, as far as I know about them and as long as they don’t impact me. No, the forgiveness of our confessed sin comes from God, the source of all love and mercy. But like all Christians, I’m commanded to actively love all people and work towards reconciliation in our world. I’m commanded to practice mercy. That’s easy with delightful people, and very difficult with people like addicts.

The New York Times recently ran a fascinating, heartbreaking story about meth and opioid addicts who are at risk of contracting an infection that destroys a valve in their hearts. Expensive surgery will fix it, but if you know something about addicts, you know that stern lectures about taking care of themselves won’t stop most from going right back to the behaviors that put them at risk of another infection. Doctors and hospital execs and family members are all over the board on what to do the second time, the third time an infection recurs. Many are even reluctant to offer a first chance – they argue that drug addicts are so predictable that they should be written off.

For Christians, an underlying consideration for us is, Jesus never writes anyone off. But he does sometimes lay out limits, since a good way to describe “sin” is “without limit.” What do you think his limits would be for these addicts? Are they different from your limits? What does/should mercy look like in this case?

You can find the article at: Injecting Drugs Can Ruin a Heart. How Many Chances Should a User Get? If you’d like to discuss this article and issue in a small group during camp, let me know.

God’s peace be with you,

Pastor Goede