It’s very popular within evangelical Christianity to ask, “Do you think such and such will go to Heaven?” In other words, we ask if alcoholics can still go to Heaven, homosexuals, drug addicts, tax evaders, and the list goes on. This type of reasoning isn’t limited to conservatives either. Just as conservatives will quickly point out that those engaged in sexual sins run the risk of the fires of Hell, many liberal Christians equally say that those who neglect the poor will never enter Heaven (assuming that they haven’t become universalists, or still believe in Heaven).
However, I think this line of reasoning is faulty. It’s impossible to say exactly who does and doesn’t go to Heaven as salvation is a matter of God’s mercy and grace, not our own reasoning. The Bible simply doesn’t provide a check list for what it is to quality for Heaven; it gives us the overall criteria, but even this is open to the subjective experience of the individual. After all, a person who accepts Christ and dies five minutes later hasn’t had a chance to serve the poor, be baptized, or have a full faith, yet universally people say, “oh, he went to Heaven.” All salvation is based upon God’s mercy, not upon our reasoning.
A better way to approach the issue is to ask, “Will this sin negatively impact your relationship with God?” So does an alcoholic go to Heaven? I don’t know, that’s between him and God, but I can say that being addicted to alcohol will negatively impact one’s relationship with God. We can’t say whether or not an addiction to a certain sin will prevent that exact individual from going to Heaven, but we can say that it will impact their relationship with God.
When we ask whether or not something will keep us from Heaven, we’re acting as though Heaven is the end goal of Christianity. But Heaven isn’t the goal, God is the goal. The purpose of the Christian life isn’t to achieve Heaven, but instead to deepen a relationship with God. Heaven is merely an continuation of that relationship. If Christianity were about being selfish, then perhaps asking about Heaven would be pertinent, but Christianity is about a relationship, thus the concern is over that relationship.
As Christians we shouldn’t worry over whether or not a specific sin will keep us out of Heaven, or an addiction to a sin will keep us out of Heaven, or even who will and won’t go to Heaven. All of this rests upon the mercy of God. Instead, what we should be concerned with is our relationship with God and what can affect that relationship.