I Am Killing My Addiction or My Addiction is Killing Me
Romans 8:13 If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Years ago, I met a man in his mid-twenties with uncontrolled diabetes since childhood. He had inherited the apathy of his parents and was still not under control. He was nearly blind, had suffered several heart attacks and was in kidney failure. His disease was treatable but in his failure to control it, it killed him. For him, apathy was the same as choosing destruction.
I can identify. When I first discovered addiction and went through outpatient treatment, I knew that I was fine. Sure, I made a mistake, but I’ll never be dumb enough to do that again. So, like the diabetic, I stuck my head in the sand and chose not to do anything about my condition. I no longer needed AA or recovery. My mistake was in the past and I was fine just leaving it there. Only it did not stay in the past. As it turned out, I have a persistent disease called the flesh nature, which will be with me until I die. I have perpetually destructive appetites which feed on apathy.
Paul, in today’s passage insisted that we have two choices. We either pursue the desires of our flesh, leading to destruction and death, or we put those desires to death and find life in God. I must daily kill my destructive desires or they will kill me. Not to choose is to choose death.
To be sure, not all diseases kill at age 25 because not all diseases are the same. Some of us will live a long slow death. Some defects do not cause enough obvious destruction that we are required to confront them.
I tell you this though. The cruelest disease is the one which allows its host to live a long, comfortable life, separating him from God, while never being quite bad enough to require treatment. Blind and apathetic, the one suffering from such an insidious defect is never required to acknowledge its presence. Sure, I look at porn, but I’m not hurting anyone… Sure, I am a little prideful, but I am pretty amazing… The fact that this death is not always obvious is evidenced by the fact that so many of us are living enslaved to our defects. Some destruction goes unaddressed for a lifetime.
According to Paul, I am to continually identify and kill that which is killing me. I am to actively abandon those pursuits which keep me from my pursuit of God. This will look different for different people and stations of life. God may well be working on something in you that He has not got to in me yet as I have bigger problems to worry about. When I was in active addiction to drugs, God was not yet working on my food addiction. Now, I am working on that one. I seem to have a never-ending supply of defects, which when indulged, distract me from who I am supposed to be.
What does it look like to put to death the deeds of the flesh? If I am a drug addict, it means going to treatment and then continuing in regular recovery activities, helping others to recover. If I am addicted to food, pride, money or pornography, I must likewise figure out and commit to radical lifestyle changes. Whatever my defect is, I need to choose radical change for the rest of my life, always pursuing God. Though I may kill a defect once, it may rise tomorrow. We are instructed, by Christ, to take up our cross daily. This is not a once-for-all choice.
If I want to know life instead of destruction, I must daily, make the choice to abandon self and follow God. Not choosing is to have made the wrong choice.