Image from Intervention 911
Addiction is one of the purest expressions of sin I can think of. The addict is a person compelled to do something that gratifies them but doesn’t make them happier or healthier. This is the essence of sin. For this reason, I sometimes think about addiction and sin because the parallels are instructive.
Last night, I was reading John 3:18—“Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.” We live in a world full of consequences. If I flirt with a rattlesnake, I will probably get bit. If I eat terribly my whole life, I will probably have a heart attack. My choices about a whole myriad of things lead to a whole myriad of outcomes. What a person decides about Jesus has the most serious consequence of all: God’s acceptance or condemnation. The church is entrusted with the deadly serious mission of articulating this bottom line of all bottom lines.
This got me to thinking about addicts. Addiction leads to detriment in some form. No exceptions. Addicts experience a whole range of emotional, social, and physical damage. Confronting addiction often involves laying out alternatives for the addict: 1) continue down the path of addiction and destruction; 2) start the journey of recovery and wholeness. This conversation doesn’t always go well. It’s not uncommon for addicts to personally attack those trying to help them. If they can point out the faults of the person trying to help them, they don’t have to look at the truth of their own situation. Along with this come comments like, “Stop judging me!” “Oh sure, you’re just Mr. Perfect, aren’t you?” “What’s the big deal? Don’t be such a prude!” “You’re just trying to scare me.” “Why don’t you live your life and let me live mine!” Etc, etc.
As these things drifted through my head, I was struck by the fact that non-Christians often react to the church like addicts react to an intervention. Granted, Christians have faults and sometimes present the gospel in harmful ways. That is another subject entirely. For now, let’s remember that people are offended by the gospel because it honestly tells them where their “addiction” to sin will lead. When an addict is attacking a trained drug and alcohol counselor, the counselor never becomes confused about where the problem is. They do not start thinking they are judgmental or self-righteous. They do not start thinking they are the problem. Neither do they think the addict is the problem. The problem is the addiction. They stay focused on freeing the person from the compulsion that is leading to their destruction.
The church is in the business of sin interventions. We cannot afford to become confused about where the problem is. Telling someone they will die if they drive off a cliff is not judgmental or self-righteous. Neither is telling someone about Jesus. Sometimes there is too much hand-wringing going on amongst Christians. If people don’t react positively to Christianity, we must be doing something wrong, we must be judgmental, we must not be expressing the love of Jesus somehow. This is not the mindset of someone trained in interventions. It is more like the enabler who takes the blame for the addict’s behavior. Somehow, they weren’t supportive enough, they hurt the addict, they did or didn’t do something that made the person turn to their addiction. Let’s not forget what the problem is: sin. Let’s not forget who the answer is: Jesus. And let’s not stop speaking the truth in love.