Christians & Addiction
A lot of Christians struggle with addiction, but are afraid to ask for help because of how they’ll be viewed for their problems. And a lot of potential Christians are never converted because of how addiction if viewed in many churches.
I think that fundamentally many Christians take a wrong approach in how they deal with addiction in the lives of people they know. When someone is addicted to cigarettes, they talk about how unhealthy tobacco use is and try to make that unhealthiness a sin. But when we cherry pick tobacco use as the one unhealthy activity that we decide to condemn (between mouthfuls of a double cheeseburger and chocolate shake), we’re making ourselves look like hypocrites and not doing anything to deal with the real issue that an addict is facing.
And that issue is the addiction itself. Addiction isn’t a battle for your body, it’s a battle for your mind and your affections. And our minds and affections are what God wants from us.
Matthew 22:37-38 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
Before we can talk about Christians and addiction, we need to understand what addiction REALLY is.
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.
—American Society of Addiction Medicine
Addiction is not the same thing as dependency. When people say “I’m addicted to coffee”, what they actually mean is that their body is dependent on coffee. They need caffeine to stay awake or get going in the morning. But their craving for coffee doesn’t cause an impairment in behavioral control or significant problems with their interpersonal relationships or cause their emotions to become dysfunctional. Your body can be dependent on something without you being addicted to it.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being dependent on something. We’re all dependent on food, air and water to sustain ourselves. We all have some food or activity that picks us up when we’re down or sleepy. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that either. It’s when that dependency changes to addiction, when our hearts tell us that we literally can’t live without whatever that thing is…..Then we have a spiritual battle to fight.
Why is addiction a problem for Christians?
From the definition of addiction, we can see the obvious dangers of addiction….. (Abstaining from temptation, failure to control your behavior, constant craving for something you shouldn’t do, dysfunctional emotions for people whose emotions will guide their actions.) All of these symptoms make being a Christian more difficult than it would be without the addiction.
Proverbs 29:11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
1Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Matthew 22:37-40 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
Christians are commanded to have control over their emotions, to choose serving God over themselves, to give our hearts and affections to God.
And addiction makes those choices more difficult.
Rather than create one giant behemoth of a post, I’m going to post something every morning for the rest of this week about….
- How a Christian can overcome addiction.
- What role addiction plays in repentance and forgiveness.
- Why addiction is so dangerous for a disciple of Christ.
- What a Christian’s attitude should be towards an addict.
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