Am I an Addict or a Christian?
Philippians 3:12,13 Not that I am already perfect, but I press on . . . forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.
One of the most common conflicts between those in church and those in recovery, revolves around identity. Am I a Christian or an addict? The extreme position on one side says that as an addict, I will always wallow in addictive behaviors. To claim freedom from addiction is to deny reality. The other extreme says that as I am forgiven, I am delivered and will never struggle again. Any evidence of a struggle betrays my lack of faith.
Both views are equally unhelpful. The two most destructive things to tell an addict are that he is either destined for addictive behaviors or that he is fixed and will never struggle again. Both lead inexorably back to active addiction.
Paul, in today’s passage strikes the correct posture between the extremes. My name is Paul. I still struggle. I am not perfect but I continually press on to a better life.
When I go to a recovery meeting and say, My name is Scott. I am an addict. I am not claiming a primary identity as an addict. I am just acknowledging a defect that I must continue to abandon if I want to follow Christ. Likewise, when I identify as a Christian, I am not claiming that I am perfect. I am simply acknowledging my ongoing need for Christ. I may not be struggling with drugs today but I still wrestle with other defects. I need God every day.
Frankly, I do not meet many in recovery who insist that I will always act like an addict. I do however, occasionally meet condescending Christians who believe themselves perfected as they are forgiven.
The world does not need more condescending Christians. The world needs honest Christians, willing to admit their own continual need, who will share the love that Christ has shown them.
Am I an addict or a Christian? Yes. I have been forgiven but I am not perfect.