Bishop David Roller (To read more from<br />Bishop Roller, visit<br />fmcusa.org/<br />davidroller.)
There are physical addictions; the body depends on a substance so much that it reacts with nausea and tremors when the substance is withdrawn. But “addiction” describes a wide range of compulsive behaviors that light up the pleasure circuits of our brains as we attempt to overcome the pain of life.
Throwing every compulsive, habitual or pleasurable activity under the same “addictive” label can minimize the crushing reality of addictions. In John 8, Jesus uses the startlingly similar language of slavery to describe the tenacity of addictive behaviors: “everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
Addictions are real. But they’re not the only reality. Addictions enslave, but slavery isn’t the only option. Christians affirm individual and corporate responsibility for our actions. There aren’t scriptural excuses for repetitive, sinful behaviors or debilitating habits. Sin isn’t ignored just because it’s habitual or grasps us.
That’s not considered good news by the addicted person who usually wants and tries to quit. The relapse cycle is a common story of addictive behavior: Quit, crave, relapse, remorse, quit again. Addicted people are used to hearing, “Once an addict, always an addict.” Even if they break the chains of one addictive behavior, they often simply move to another one.
But the good story of Scripture is not of women and men bound by unbreakable chains. Rather, it’s a story of chains shattered, temptation resisted and addictions healed. It is not hard to cast the language of addiction over the scriptural story. Whether it’s Jacob, the deceiver; Solomon, the compulsive-spice-collector; or Peter, the betrayer — the Bible is full of people either succumbing to or overcoming habits that today would be called addictions.
The realities of those suffering in bondage are real. Christians have the delightful task of proclaiming freedom to the captive and providing the context of firm, loving, supportive believers to walk the pathway of freedom with the addict.
Although a support network can be critically important to freedom from addiction, the essential component is God’s work in the life of the person. Jesus came to lift the curse by healing the inner pain that generates addictive behavior.0