“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12
Long before I lost control to my drug use, I chose the drug for a reason. It made me feel good. It helped me sleep. I liked the drug, and I chose to use it. I was in control . . . for a short time. Through repetition though, what was once a choice, became a compulsive behavior as my brain was rewired to follow the drug. There was a time when I chose to use, but in my addiction, eventually, I had to use as the drug took over. The drug of course, makes terrible decisions, which led to predictably disastrous consequences.
Losing control doesn’t just involve drugs though. We’ve got many different impulses, appetites, and behaviors, that, when repeated often enough, become compulsive. We may become enslaved to food, sex, pornography, money, anger, resentment, or even affirmation from our peers. Anything that temporarily gratifies us becomes a behavior that we must repeat. In doing so, it becomes a compulsion that eventually controls us. We first choose the thing, but then, we surrender to it and eventually it chooses for us. Now, we’re enslaved to that thing.
In today’s passage, Paul cautioned the Corinthians against excessive use of their spiritual freedom. He warned that certain impulses enslaved the one who practiced them and that he himself, would not surrender control of his life to any such behavior. He was a servant of Christ and refused to be controlled by his appetite.
This of course, is the problem with addiction – it distracts us from who we truly want to be. Sometimes there are obvious consequences to addiction. Drug use usually leads to disaster. Gluttony leads to weight gain. Sometimes however, the consequence is simply that we’re distracted from following the life Christ wants for us. In the case of secret sins, like pornography, we can hide the addiction for years, but the control that thing has over our mind, prevents us from ever becoming who God wants us to be.
That is why Paul was so cautious in exercising his right to do whatever he wanted. He knew that his appetite could easily lead him to an addictive behavior that would control him. If we desire the life for which God made us, then Like Paul, we must daily decide that we will not indulge in or be controlled by our self-destructive impulses, behaviors, and appetites.