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BIBLICAL COMPASSION FOR ADDICTS

 

It is sad but true that many professing Christians talk behind the backs of alcoholics and drug addicts just like worldly people do, sometimes even more viciously. That hits home with me because in the past I’ve had my own struggles with alcohol. If anyone thinks I will open up to someone about my past issues after hearing them mocking or making fun of folks with those very same issues, they have a better chance of seeing hell freeze over than of seeing me talk. There are also modern-day Pharisees—Christians who are legalistic and have no qualms about firing-and-brimstoning addicts without mercy and without offering any kind of help for them to break the addiction cycle. On the other end of the spectrum are those who, while they care, call such addictions illnesses instead of sins. Their kindness is laudable. However, their lack of Biblical truthfulness is useless or even harmful.

 

I have been in AA in the past, although my last meeting was in the summer of 2012. While AA does help people, it is ultimately limited by the fact that it is secular rather than Christian, this in spite of the fact that participants say it is a spiritual program. More recently, until early 2020, I was an active participant in Celebrate Recovery. To clarify, CR is for any kind of issue, not just chemical addictions, but those who have had drug and/or alcohol addictions are well-represented among the program’s participants.

 

CR has two advantages over AA in that one, it is a Christ-centered twelve-step program and two, members do not make negative confessions over their lives such as “I’m an alcoholic” or “I’m a sex addict” or “I’m a gambling addict”, for example. Rather, it’s “I’m struggling with—(fill in the blank)”, which is an improvement. Both programs, however, call addictions to drugs and especially to alcohol, illnesses or diseases.

 

Okay, so we have some believers who demean addicts either by ridicule or by religiosity while others call their addictions illnesses or diseases. What do we do as Christians? How can we be more helpful to these people who battle alcohol, other drugs, or both?

 

For one, we must speak the truth and we must speak it in love. Addiction is sin, period. It is a sad fact that many in CR and especially in AA suffer church hurt because legalistic Christians blasted them for their sin instead of showing unconditional love and helping them out of their sin. Calling an addiction an illness may seem to be an act of kindness, but ultimately it blunts the seriousness of what a person is doing. Although the Bible does not call out marijuana, cocaine, meth, et cetera, by name, it does call them out by inference because alcohol is also a drug, and the Word of God has plenty to say about drunkenness, none of it good. Here are but a few examples:


Proverbs 23:21: For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.

Isaiah 19:14: The LORD has mingled a perverse spirit in her midst; and they have caused Egypt to err in all her work, as a drunken man staggers in his vomit.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10: Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

So we call addiction what it is—sin. But then we show the addicts love. Look at verse 11 of the 1 Corinthians 6 passage:

1 Corinthians 6:11: And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

All right, but what if the person reaching out for help with their addiction is not a Christian? You still offer hope. Before Jesus Christ warned the religious leaders of the day that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the one sin that is unpardonable, our Lord made this statement:

Matthew 12:31a: Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men,...”

Where Jesus says every sin (and blasphemy) will be forgiven men, this includes addictions. So there is hope for the addicts.

Biblically speaking, how else can we help a person who is addicted to alcohol and/or other drugs? The secular world can be of help with the physical aspects of addiction, such as detoxification, rehabilitation, and other sorts of treatment centers, but it cannot help a person with the aspects of addiction.


Twelve-step programs, even Christ-centered ones, can only go so far. One element even those in much of the Church are in the dark about is deliverance. What is deliverance? It involves casting demons out of an individual, but it also involves breaking curses, generational curses, and soul ties. The depth of this topic goes far beyond the scope of a blog. The “Deliverance” lesson in Level 3 of the Remnant Bible Study Course on our website gives extensive details about the deliverance process. Deliverance can be done on those who are lost, but if at all possible it should be performed on the saved only because the Holy Spirit is present in a believer to prevent full-blown demonic possession. Here is what usually happens to someone who goes through deliverance who is not born again:


Luke 11:24-26: When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.


Deliverance is not a one-and-done process, either. It must be maintained.  Evicted demons will try to re-enter the person, and they will bring other demons with them.  To sum up, the Church can be there to help an addict. In order to do so Biblically we must speak truth to the addict’s problem, calling it what it is: A sin problem. At the same time, we offer holy compassion. Since there are spiritual roots to addiction, the addict’s spiritual condition must be known. Saved or lost, however, although secular twelve-step and treatment programs—and even CR—have limitations, they cannot and should not be dismissed out of hand.
Christian treatment programs would be preferable for believers who for one reason or another have found themselves in the grip of a drug or alcohol addiction. A lost person should get saved before any determination is made on how to proceed with the spiritual aspects of their addiction. Even with the saved person, it is a good idea to rule out other causes (psychological, for example) before endeavoring on deliverance sessions to free the person from demons which cause addiction. Strong, loving accountability and ongoing speaking of the truth in love are essential, the accountability being built into other believers:


Proverbs 27:5-6, 17: Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful… As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.


Whether the addict we deal with is saved or lost, he or she should always see the love of Jesus in us. If nothing else, that plants the seed of the Gospel in those who are without Christ. We who are Christians are family, and when one falls, the others should try to help (Galatians 6:1-2), although church discipline is in order for those who will not make the effort to change (Matthew 18:15-20).

We are not to correct without having a solution at hand. We are not to mock or ridicule the addicted. We truly are to be Jesus to the world, including to those who are hooked on alcohol and/or other drugs. Jesus knows the worst about us and He loves us anyway. Who are we to do any less?

 

 

 

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