For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. Acts 8:23
A friend was recently telling me of a family member’s struggle with cancer which causes intense pain and will likely take his life. In constant discomfort, he requires heavy pain medications. When I heard the story, I remembered – and this is awful – once being jealous of those with terminal cancer because they could have whatever pain medications they needed. If I’m being painfully honest, I must admit there’s still a remnant of those old pathways in my brain. I’ve been sober for 6 years, but there’s still a tiny part of me that thinks it would be great to have access to any drug I wanted.
That’s horrible and more than a little disturbing, but it’s the reality of addiction. It’s what I once did to my brain, and I must live with the consequences of those old behavior patterns. Thankfully, God has transformed me so that I no longer live enslaved to the pills, but unfortunately, the bondage I once lived in is not completely forgotten by my mind.
Evil is sticky. We think we can pick it up, enjoy it, and put it down, but that’s not the nature of evil. When we indulge in anger, lust, gluttony, greed, destructive relationships, gossip, anger, or pride, those things stick to us. When we reward our brains repeatedly with immediate gratification, that which we once did by choice, becomes compulsive, and an addiction is born. Then, we surrender more and more of ourselves, crafting our own pain and misery. At some point, we’ll beg for freedom, but that’s the thing about being enslaved. You don’t get to simply walk away.
Simon the magician found this out in today’s passage. In the story, he attempted to buy the power of the Holy Spirit from the disciples. Peter chastised him, telling him that he was in the bond of iniquity. This wasn’t some unbeliever. Simon had faith. He was baptized. He wanted to follow Christ, but his flesh nature was still broken and when he indulged in his pride, he returned to bondage.
This is the nature of evil. Evil always enslaves. God never enslaves. Evil is death and destruction and it is sticky. God, however, is freedom and life. If we desire to know that freedom and life, then we must daily do whatever it takes to abandon our old self for the recovery found only in Christ.