Addiction isn't usually talked about in church. But the idea of addiction shows up all over the Bible. It's the idea of being captive to or mastered by a repetitive, ongoing behavior, whether that manifests in one more drink or one more click of the mouse or one more shopping trip.
Addiction comes in many different forms, and it's always a present danger posed by our sinful nature. So what special words of hope does Jesus have for those who find themselves in addictive behavior? And how would He have us, His followers, treat addicts?
First of all, Jesus has good news for addicts. In Luke 4, Jesus began His public ministry by reading from Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (vv. 18-19).
That's a messy bunch of folks: poor, brokenhearted, captive, blind, oppressed. But this describes all of us, including those who struggle with addiction. And Jesus has a special message for us: He came to preach the gospel—the good news—and to proclaim liberty to the captives, including those who are in the bondage of addiction. More than that, He came "to set at liberty those who are oppressed" (v. 18). In other words, Jesus was saying, "I don't just have a nice sermon for addicts—I have a plan to break the cycle they're caught in."
Sometimes God takes away an addiction instantly, but that's not the norm. Usually He does it supernaturally naturally: as you cooperate with Him, He gives you the supernatural power to beat an addiction through a natural process. But above all, it takes relying on the Lord. Effectiveness in recovery is more than saying no to the menace—it's saying yes to the Maker.
And that Maker has a good reputation among addicts. Jesus socialized with alcoholics, prostitutes, and probably men who were addicted to sex with the prostitutes (see Matthew 9:10-11; 11:19; Luke 15:1-2; 19:7). He was known as the friend of sinners, and He accepted that title as a badge of honor.
So here's my challenge to the church: As the body of Christ, we are the representatives of Jesus in this world. Let's represent Him well. Our hands ought to reach out to people in His name. Our feet ought to walk toward people in His name. Our mouths ought to bring the good news of the gospel to people in His name.
If Jesus saved you, don't you think He can save others through you, including those who struggle with addiction? He loves to do that. And His blood can make even the foulest clean. My prayer is that more of us would become addicted to Christ, addicted to serving our Lord, and addicted to loving people in a transforming way in His name.