On Alcoholics, Higher Powers and Doorknobs
Acts 4:12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
When I first met with the concepts of recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous (or Narcotics Anonymous), some Christians vehemently discouraged me from attending any such meeting. As you may well know, there is significant division, propagated by some on both sides, between the Church and AA. Passages like today’s expose some of the substance behind this rift. As AA espouses a generic Higher Power in an effort to be inclusive, Christians feel that it has abandoned this truth: Jesus is The Way to God.
I understand the conflict. Several times in AA, I heard that your higher power can be whatever you want it to be. If you want, you can believe in a doorknob as your higher power. This is nonsense of course. Any higher power that I manufacture is neither higher, nor a power.
Still, the twelve steps are taken straight from the bible. I am helpless on my own. I need God (or higher power). Only He can save me from myself. I must surrender to him… I found great truth, God’s truth, in AA despite their ambiguity in naming God. I knew God’s name.
This division exposes a greater conflict for me, that is, my commitment to proclaiming Jesus as the only way to God. This is the same conflict that Peter and John found themselves in after healing a lame man. The religious leaders of the day found the exclusive teaching of Christ offensive and told them to stop. Peter and John pointed to the one who had been healed and insisted that the source of the man’s healing was Jesus Christ. They insisted on obeying God and preaching Christ, no matter who was offended by it.
The world will always find the idea of one way to God to be offensive. How are we to respond to this as followers of Christ? Often, we respond poorly, erring in one of two extremes. First, some of us go out of our way to be judgmental and condescending. Instead of sharing truth in love, we pick fights. We argue for and sell God. We arm ourselves with our truth-bat and start swinging. In our pride and need to be right, we offend the world not with Christ, but with our own arrogance.
The other mistake we make is to fail to stand for truth at all. In an effort to avoid offense, we never get around to mentioning that there is one way to God. As the world is offended by exclusivity, we abandon it. We have come to believe the lie that to disagree with someone is to be disrespectful. This of course, is nonsense. We are speaking of profound, existential questions. We are meant to have deep-held convictions about such things. We may disagree and still respect each other. Love and respect do not mean that we find each other’s beliefs to be equally correct. We can love someone and think they are wrong.
Peter and John’s approach to this is something from which I can learn. I do not need to argue or fight with those who disagree with me, but neither must I abandon truth. I should merely point to what Christ has done for me and insist that He is the way to God. If I offend someone, I want them to be offended because of Christ, not because I am acting like a jerk.
I still go to AA meetings. Despite their ambiguity in naming god, they teach a biblical truth that addresses my greatest defects in life. When I go, I freely share what Christ has done for me. If some are offended that I do not follow a doorknob, I do not worry about that. As Christ saved me from myself, I must tell others of him.