Drugs, Sin, and Brain Damage
And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time. Acts 13:11
Multiple medical studies have shown the damage that drug use does to the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that’s responsible for cognition and self-control. Brain imaging scans can actually show that the area of the brain which tells us not to do a thing (inhibition) is damaged with repeated drug use. Prior to drug exposure, that area is active, saying, Don’t do this. This isn’t a good idea. With every use, the activity there is diminished, until it becomes completely inactive. It’s no surprise that the addict literally has brain damage.
This simply reinforces what we’ve always known. When we first do anything that we know we shouldn’t do, our conscience pokes us, saying, Don’t do this. It’s wrong. The second time we do it though, our conscience’s volume is turned down. With repetition of any sin, we silence that voice. Sin, like drugs, literally damages our brain’s ability to function as God intended. When we engage in self-destructive behavior, we damage ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
Elymas, a false prophet, discovered this in today’s passage. In the story, Paul and Barnabas shared the gospel with the proconsul of Cyprus. Elymas opposed them, attempting to turn the proconsul away from God. Paul condemned him, pronouncing the effect of his sin. The hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time. Elymas engaged in self-destructive behavior and suffered very real, physical consequences.
We may not literally lose our vision when we follow our own path, but nevertheless, when we do something we know to be wrong, we damage our brains, choosing blindness and deafness. As we find our pleasure and purpose in some illicit immediate gratification, we silence our conscience, reinforcing the behavior which soon becomes compulsive. Then, we no longer have a choice. We simply have an addiction that is profoundly difficult to interrupt.
Fortunately, this is reversible. When we do whatever it takes to abandon the destructive behavior, this damage to our brains can be undone. As we choose to do what’s right, the conscience God gave us is reawakened. In abandoning our way and following Christ’s, we can find healing and freedom. This is faith. This is recovery.