22 January 2008

When There is No Hope in "Recovering"

I had the chance to talk with a woman from my church the other day at a community women's bible study. We have been developing a friendship and I am very appreciative of her. She is one of those sweet, soft spoken people I have always wished I could be. We were chatting about people we love and their struggle with drug addictions. I found myself saying something that I hadn't really thought about in detail. I told her I thought that people who had drug addictions have a misconception that their sins are tattooed on their foreheads and are worse than other people's sin. Like Hester Prynne in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, they are marked by their sin and struggle with always being identified by those scars. Why wouldn't they think that way, what do we do to change their perceptions?

Addictions do mark us physically. Hollow eyes, bad skin, rotten teeth-those who know the signs can read the map of scars addictions leave on bodies. The world says their souls are scarred too. They can never be free of the marks...the best they can hope for is being in recovery. Why is it we are content to classify people the way the world does? Why are we so willing to separate even our brethren into "us and them" categories- Here we have the "saved" and the "addicted-saved" who will struggle and forever be in recovery because of their addictions. Why would I allow a brother or sister in Christ to think for a moment that their sin of drug abuse insured they would be somewhat less of a new creation than the new creation I have become because I wasn't addicted to chemicals? How unloving and unkind we are to leave our brethren at the cusp of true healing and never bring them all the way in.

You may be shouting at your computer monitor right now that drug addiction is a medical problem, that alcoholism is a disease that must be managed; addiction to narcotics is a disease that must be managed. And while I will agree with you that these addictions cause real medical problems, I will not agree that the best a person can be is a recovering addict. What kind of hope is that, in forever being labeled as a 'non practicing' drug addict? Christians wake up! Repentance doesn't help us manage our sin! We are not recovering sinners! We are saved sinners, created anew for His glory and with the purpose of being fruitful; producing good works through and for Him.

The sin of finding your enjoyment, comfort, and reason for being in anything other than God (whether it is food, drugs, sex, shopping or whatever) is detrimental to your body and to our very soul. Addictions do cause physical trouble but they are not caused by physical trouble. They begin because we give way to our flesh instead of being obedient to the Word of God. We need to discipline our hearts as well as our bodies. A Christian who repents of meth abuse isn't likely to see the enamel suddenly return to their teeth, and a person who once drank to excess may have trouble with their liver for the rest of their lives even though they do not consume another drop of alcohol. The medical consequences of our sin aren't always healed. However, for a Christian, sin- confessed and repented of- is forgiven. If the sin that caused you to gratify yourself with chemicals is not repented of, then the best you can hope for is a change of behavior. That's what the world offers. God offers a clean and new heart. The world can't compete with that and we shouldn't want it to.

2 Corinthians 5:17 17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, {he is} a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Psalm 51:10 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Ephesians 2:10 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Colossians 3:9-17 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its {evil} practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him 11 {a renewal} in which there is no {distinction between} Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. 12 And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 And beyond all these things {put on} love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms {and} hymns {and} spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, {do} all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (NAS)

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