Destined for Addiction?
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit . . . John 15:16
Trapped in an addiction, many of us have found some perverse comfort in the idea that we’ve got a disease over which we have no control. If we get cancer, it’s not our fault, right? Whether it’s a genetic predisposition or some childhood trauma, if our future was written for us, we can’t do anything about it, and we can’t be blamed. This thought is actually quite comforting to the addict, who prefers to avoid responsibility.
I’ve met those who’ve used today’s verse to similarly dismiss their fault. In the passage, Jesus first insisted that his disciples must abide in him, bear fruit, love each other, and keep his commandments. Christ taught that following him is not just a simple belief but rather, voluntary action and radical change in behavior. Jesus went to great lengths to outline the personal responsibility his disciples had in choosing to follow him.
Then, Jesus insisted that his followers didn’t actually choose him. Rather, Jesus chose them. The “out” here, for those who struggle in self-destructive behaviors, is similar to the disease argument and it goes like this: If God chooses those who follow him, what if I’m just not chosen? That would explain why I’ve prayed a thousand times for God to take away my addiction. That would explain why he hasn’t done anything for me. I’m just not “chosen” and so, I’m destined for addiction, failure, and damnation. I might as well just go along with it.
This is the opposite of Jesus intent here, which wasn’t to remove all responsibility, but rather, to assure the disciples of his love for them. You must follow me, but you cannot earn my love. I love you no matter what. I chose you, even before you followed me. Jesus first needed to reach out to us before we could respond to him, but that doesn’t mean we can use our failure as evidence that he’s destined us for that failure. We may not be responsible for which disease or struggle we have, but we’re responsible for how we respond to Christ’s call to abandon it and follow him.
When we’re mired our struggle, we must ask if it’s God or us who is lacking. The answer is never God. In today’s passage, Jesus insisted that he has chosen us. Now, it is up to us to do whatever it takes to abandon our mess and follow him.