Always an Addict?
I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27
I’m occasionally challenged by other Christians who worry that I’ve bought into the secular worldview of “Once an addict, always an addict”. Those who question me, know that the Bible says we’re new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). They feel we’re transformed when we come to faith and so, we can no longer be addicts. To suggest otherwise then – that the addict may always struggle with addiction – is faithless and possibly heretical.
To this, I say that I’ve absolutely found freedom in Christ. I don’t live perfectly, but in daily abandoning my way to try and follow God’s, my appetite has been transformed so that I have no desire to use pain pills today. I’m thankful for that miracle. Does that mean the old behavior patterns are completely erased though? Is there some situation in which those old appetites could be reawakened? Is my addictive, self-destructive nature truly dead and gone forever?
In today’s passage, Paul gave us a glimpse into his own struggles and provided a warning. In it, he used the metaphor of an athlete-in-training who must exercise self-control. He said that as a follower of Christ he too, must discipline himself, keeping his body under control, so that he may not be disqualified from preaching the gospel. Paul knew he wasn’t made perfect yet and though we don’t know specifics, we know that he still had his own struggles. He knew that if he didn’t daily discipline himself to stay on the narrow road to life, he’d stumble and fall, wrecking his ministry, causing himself immense pain and sorrow. Paul retained a healthy fear of the sinful nature that still resided in him.
This is why I say that’s it’s not as simple as claiming that “My addiction is gone”. I know that if I stopped getting up early every day to read and pray, and if I stopped abandoning my way to follow God’s, that I’d start to drift off course. It may be unnoticeable at first, but if a few days of following me turned into a few months, I don’t doubt that my addiction could reawaken and that I’d soon return to my old ways.
As Christians, we must discipline our bodies, keeping our self-destructive nature under control. We can experience freedom in our faith, but we can also go back to the old life. Daily, like Paul, we must abandon that old life if we truly desire to know the new one in Christ.