In my experience, very few Christians understand addiction. It’s not intentional. It’s just ignorance. And it’s not limited to Christians. Addiction is hard to understand for anyone who has not experienced it themselves.
A non-addict believes that the addict should just be able to put down the thing they are addicted to. It makes no sense. Why does that thing have power over you? Christians add spiritual expectations to this mix. “Of course you don’t have power on your own to overcome that addiction, but you can do all things through Christ. You’re free from sin, therefore nothing shall have mastery over you… so stop pretending you’re addicted. It’s all in your head.”
Umm… no, that’s not right. It sounds right to a believer, but there’s a fly in the ointment. Christians are still addicted to sin just like everyone else. We like it even. (Oops, did I say that? Perhaps I’ve revealed too much!! Let me put on my pious face again.) Though we may not think of it as addiction, that’s what it is.
This is what’s true: In Christ, no sin should be your master. Whatever your addiction is, God can help you deal with it. What’s not true is that the temptation will necessarily go away. All God is promising is that you don’t have to give in to it. He always provides a way out.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
It’s no sin to be tempted. I’ve had friends confess their addictions to me. I have addictions of my own. It’s not pretty. I wish it weren’t true, but it is. Just because I don’t struggle with alcoholism, drugs, or pornography, doesn’t mean there aren’t things that trip me up. Sweets for example, that’s a mild one I’ll admit to publicly. I am a sugar fiend. I will consume sugar to the point of obesity given the chance.
In order to cope with addiction an addict must sometimes free himself from the temptation. In the case above, I have to steer clear of sweets for the most part to avoid falling off the wagon. An alcoholic should not go to bars. A drug addict may need to avoid friends who will pull her back into the scene.
“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” Matthew 18:8-9
The passage above is actually quite controversial because some people have taken it literally and actually maimed themselves. That is really not the intent of the passage. Your eye does not cause you to sin, nor your hand or foot. The desires of your heart cause you to sin. (And that’s not referring to your anatomical heart either!)
Desire leads a person to cross the boundary between healthy and unhealthy; balance and imbalance; wisdom and foolishness; obedience and sin. Self-control will only take us so far when it comes to sin. We need God control. We are capable of all sin given the right circumstance, alignment of the planets, and a cool breeze from the north. /-: A person has to know his or her limits and be prudent about dealing with them to avoid falling into the trap of sin. Listen to your heart. Listen to God.
The stupidest thing one can do is blame an addict for being addicted. You might as well blame him or her for being born. Case in point: Homosexuality. (Uh, oh. Now I’ve done it.) According to the Bible the practice of homosexuality is a sin. Homosexuals complain, “But how is that fair? This is how I’m made.” The Bible is saying you have an addiction man. It won’t affirm the choice to engage in sin. It says flat out, don’t go that way. But it will affirm you. God loves you. God understands your predicament. He knows you’re addicted to sin just like everyone else; and it just so happens that this is the one you like.
I think I’ve managed to offend both Christians and unbelievers in that last paragraph. Forgive me for stating the argument.
We don’t have to give in to sin. There is a better way that God is leading us to follow, even though we’re all (all of us) dirty and covered with muck according to scripture.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6
Not having to sin doesn’t mean our temptations will flee us when we resist, only that the tempter will flee when we resist him. And in that we have power to walk in the light with Jesus.
There’s a children’s song that goes like this:
O Be Careful, Little Eyes
O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see
…O be careful little ears what you hear
…O be careful little hands what you do
…O be careful little feet where you go
If your eyes, ears, hands or feet cause you to sin, just don’t go there. Know your limits. Everyone is weak. Some just don’t admit it.
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.