Time to Rethink How the Church Addresses Addiction

Let me make this clear. I’m not your therapist and especially not your psychiatrist. I guess I’m just your (online) pastor. So in no way take my discussion of addiction to mean that if you are in need of any type of counseling or prescribed medication that you should alter anything without consulting a doctor (whose degree is in something other than Ministry.)

Addictions are rampant in the church. I’m sure there are some with commonly thought off addictions like drug or alcohol abuse or uncontrollable gambling habits. There are more who struggle with more socially acceptable habits like tobacco or overeating. But the more hidden addictions like prescription drug abuse, pornography, or excessive video game play are growing at exponential rates. Then there’s the addictions that are almost celebrated like those obsessed with success or power or money. Idols in the Old Testament were statues, sticks, and soothsaying meant to bring good fortune or other blessings. Idols today are substances, successes, and sensuality that try to put everything in this life in the control of the user.

So how do we break ourselves from all these addictions that have taken the role that only Jesus should have? Most of us probably think we don’t have an addiction or that we could stop any time. Without talking to you individually, I have to speak generally. This issue is pride. You are taking control of something that only God should have control of. He can take away your loneliness, bring true joy in your life, give you real hope, and reveal His incredible plan. Yet, we all know that He doesn’t always do those things on our chosen schedule. When we seek connection from drugs, alcohol, sex, money, video games, or really any other created thing, we are trying to seize control away from the Creator. The way out of this cycle is simple, and yet it’s really hard. We must humble ourselves. More often than not its God who humbles us, and that is extraordinarily painful. This is when we hit rock bottom or are caught red-handed. But if we can humble ourselves we can avoid such pain. Oh, there’s awkwardness, but certainly less pain. We humble ourselves by confessing to God and confessing to others. You’ve got to take your addiction, which was once confined to the deep recesses of your life, and bring it out in the sunlight (or “Son” light if you want to be cutesy.) Accountability before your God and friends will help you battle the addiction that previously had complete control in your life.

But what if it is not you with the addiction but someone close to you? I have always felt that the “intervention approach” to confronting addiction didn’t seem right. The journalist in this video collected the science behind my thoughts. I promise this is the fastest 15min you can imagine. I do not believe he is a Christian, but he is British so he sounds smart.  Please watch it before going further, it’s well-worth it.

Without knowing it, he is talking a biblical language. Selfless love is how connectedness is possible. When dealing with someone struggling with an addiction, letting them know you will love them no matter what is absolutely a reflection of Christ. Jesus’ love is unconditional. He loved us when we were totally self-destructing. Should we not do the same? 1 Corinthians 13 lays out exactly what love is supposed to be. “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” You will need Christ’s supernatural love when you try to love an addict.

Local churches need to be all over this. Be a place where the people literally stand up and say, if you are having a problem we are all here to help. There are church members and attenders who have such dark stuff going on in their lives it will blow your mind. So let’s think about what’s better. Should we allow that sin to simmer and stew unchecked? Or do we want those in our churches to finally get the help they so desperately need in overcoming their addiction? When you start getting bold and start confessing your own sins and addictions, be ready for others to start coming up and sharing with you their struggles too (especially craziness you might hear come out of a deacon’s mouth.) It HAS to come out. Once its out in the light, it can finally shrivel up and die like an earthworm stuck on the sidewalk too long. But the realization that true connection and acceptance with and from another person is possible will be what motivates the confession. Addicts are so sure you will reject them if you only knew. Be a “type” of Christ in their life and show them what connection with Jesus could look like by displaying it in your relationship to them.

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