For Those Still Addicted
If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? Matthew 18:10-12
It’s easy to write off the addict who has failed and let you down a hundred times. I’ve been there. Or at least I’ve been the one who has failed a hundred times, letting others down. In my seemingly endless cycle of attempted recovery and relapse, there were those who believed I’d never make it. He’s a hopeless addict. I don’t blame them. I’d failed repeatedly and up to that point, my past performance indicated only that I was on a downward spiral.
Now, in recovery myself, I have several friends who are still in the struggle. It’s easy to be frustrated by them. You would think I, of all people, would understand. Still, I become irritated when I hear of a brother who just can’t stop hurting himself and his family. Why don’t you get help? I know that he’s enslaved to his diseased nature, but still, I believe he has the responsibility to seek help and treatment.
What do we do when those around us are lost? In today’s passage, Jesus describes the shepherd-like attitude we must adopt for the lost sheep in our midst. He says that when one is lost, we seek that one out, hoping he will return. If he returns, we rejoice. What if he refuses to return and seek help?
Jesus doesn’t say here what we should do if the lost one refuses to return. In other passages though, when faced with those who refused to follow, Jesus didn’t pursue any further (Matthew 19:16-24). He just allowed them to go their way. Later, Paul insisted that we maintain appropriate boundaries for our own protection. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1).
The challenge for me, is to maintain compassion without getting caught up in the addict’s disastrous life. So, I must continually choose humility, remembering that it was not that long ago that I was lost in my addiction. Daily, I pray for those whom I know to still be in the struggle. I do what I can to share my recovery, if and when they are interested. Then, when the lost one finds faith, repentance, and recovery, like the shepherd in today’s passage, I rejoice.