Five Things Churches Should Know About Addiction
1. Addiction is Not Simply a Brain Disease- The secular worldview about addiction being an unresolved brain disease contradicts the biblical one. The Bible holds all men accountable for their sin and that includes drug abuse as well. Therefore, the disease model of addiction is another attempt by the world to rid man of their guilt for their sin. I always tell people that I’ve never seen a disease that makes a man lie, covet, and steal from his own family! If the church buys into this philosophy then we’re at risk of allowing an issue of morality to become a scientific one. If this happens, there will no longer be a need for the gospel because people are now excused for all of the evil deeds that go on behind the addiction in the first place.
2. Addicts Are Not Ordinary Cases- The drug addicts in your pews are not the same as the soccer mom or community plumber. They will need intense discipleship from their elders and accountability throughout their recovery process rather than a once a week counseling session mixed with Sunday’s service. Yes, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but an addict has the impulsive nature of Samson and it will soon cost him or her their life as well if somebody doesn’t step in to help them. How do we help them? We need to get involved in their lives at a deeper level and understand that their issues aren’t an easy fix. There is years and years of bad character behind their addiction and rooting those out through discipleship is no easy task. You have to commit to them while you work through one issue at a time and count the cost of bearing heavy burdens along the way. (Also, most addicts are in need of a program before they can even function in society.)
3. Addicts Are Not Honest People- I’ve never met an honest drug addict. If you want to live the life of addiction then you must become accustomed to scheming and lying. Churches need to keep this in mind when they are working with these men and women to get them sober. An addict first and foremost lies to themselves. They have a tendency to be self deceived and narcissistic, so it’s going to be up to you to not buy into their lies and hold them accountable to the truth throughout their process. When you hold them to the truth they will often go one of three ways: 1. Self Pity- Which is an attempt to avoid repentance and hold on to sin while appearing saddened over it. 2. Man Pleasing Agreement- Which is a way to get the heat off of themselves until you move on to the next point. 3. Confrontation and Emotional Anger- Which is a way to get everyone intimidated until they no longer have the courage to confront the addict. Please don’t buy into any of these attempts and keep pressing them towards the truth via repentance. Remember, addiction requires a lifestyle of lying in order to stay high. You must understand that you will be manipulated at times so you have to stay on guard with a forgiving heart.
4. Addicts Are Prideful and Selfish- We have a worldview in our society that the addicted are automatically humble due to the pain they have endured in their lives. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Addicts are prideful in their roots because they are unteachable and will do anything in order to please themselves. That’s what addiction is. It’s the constant pursuit of the pleasure of sin to the point of destroying everything. Think of it like this: If a man or woman has the ability to steal thirty dollars from their mom’s purse and then spend that thirty dollars on pills, how much humility do you think they are carrying in their spirit? Do you think the addict who does this is thinking about their mom? Do you think they have a healthy empathy for others? The answers to the these questions are obvious. The healthiest thing a church can do is understand this from the start and gently steer the addict towards accepting it for themselves as well. They will need to understand that they are selfish if they ever hope to begin working towards becoming selfless. They will need to understand they are prideful if they hope to work towards the humility of Christ. Diagnose these sin issues correctly and then point them to the cross for forgiveness.
5. Addicts Are Sinners- This is the one I cannot stress enough to churches. The addicted in your church are spiritually sick people, as we all are. They need the gospel and need it frequently. They are sinners according to Bible far before they are addicts. This means they shouldn’t be seen as less than, or above the rest, in regards to their past. Once the addict is saved, and trying to work out their salvation, we should no longer regard them according to their past. Also, as I stated in the first point, the roots of addiction are many and wide. There is a lot that has to happen in the heart and mind before you become a full blown junkie. You have to be able to smother your conscience in order to take the steps towards getting high everyday. This is why approaching the addict as a sinner is important. They need to be diagnosed for what’s on the inside of their cup before we train them worry about the outside. Remember, nothing we put into our bodies defile us. It’s what comes out of heart that does the job. The issue isn’t addiction. The issue is sin, as it always has been. Please show these people mercy in their process and understand that their recovery from sin won’t look the same as everyone else. They are our weaker brothers/sisters and it’s the strong Christian’s job to lead them to Word like anyone else.