Christians Can’t Be Addicts, Right?
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
I grew up in an Evangelical Christian tradition which taught that we’re transformed when we come to Christ. I’m sure that I was never taught that we’re instantly made perfect in our faith, but still, I grew up simply knowing that Christians couldn’t be addicts . . . and that those who were addicted weren’t Christians. Christians just didn’t act that way and anyone who did engage in such behavior must not really know God.
Imagine my conflict then, when I lost my job, got my name in the paper, and had to go to treatment for my own opioid addiction. In the disaster, I was lost, not knowing who or what I was. Christians can’t be addicted. Anyone who is addicted can’t be a Christian, right?
I needed answers and so I began searching. Today’s passage was one of those that helped me understand my condition as a Christian who still has very real struggles. In the passage, Paul reminded the Galatians that they’d been set free through faith in Christ. He warned them however, not to return to the slavery of their old life. Why would he warn them not to do a thing that was impossible to do? The passage makes it clear that even those who know God, can still fall back into addiction and slavery.
When we come to faith, all of our self-destructive appetites aren’t removed. If I had a hunger for unhealthy food, sex, or drugs before, I will still have some desire for those things after. When I indulge in these appetites, I get some reward. When I do it repeatedly, I rewire my brain until the behavior becomes compulsive. Then, an addiction is born. Christians are not immune to this process. It may seem obvious to you, but I still meet those who are convinced that Christians simply cannot be addicted. Today’s passage says otherwise. If we’re not careful, we can become addicted just like anyone else.
The good news however, is that we were made for freedom. Through Christ’s sacrificial death, we’re forgiven and restored to a right relationship with the father – the only one who can appropriately fulfill all of our deepest longings and needs. If we daily abandon the old life for the new one, we can experience all the life, joy, and peace for which he created us.
Christians can do bad things. Christians can be addicted. We all struggle with something, even after we come to faith. We don’t have to live enslaved though. If we desire it, we can experience freedom in following Christ.