Lovingly responding to people must always contain the full truth because truth sets people free. Love engages and cares for the person, and the truth reveals the facts of the person. Factual, truthful, gracious revelation, one-on-one with a person opens the door to true freedom in Christ.
One reality of addiction is that you can find it in the seats of your local church on any given Sunday. Yes, that is true. In order for the church to disengage from their own contribution to the cover-up that allows addiction to continue week-after-week inside its own walls, the church must become healthy in the way it addresses this issue.
Jesus is the Master of addressing people with both truth and grace. He has this way of cutting through the cover-ups and revealing what is really going on inside a person's life. Here are a few examples of what Jesus has done, and how the church can mirror His model in the church today. People can't be set free unless their cover is blown. Is denial in the church any different than denial in the addict? Is avoidance in the church getting people any closer to healing and restoration?
1. Don't Fear the Truth, Fear ongoing Denial. People tend to fear speaking the truth. Think for a moment about Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. She says to Jesus, "I have no husband." Jesus replies, "You've had five..." The woman responds, "I see you're a prophet." The woman ends up introducing people to Jesus and does not curse Him for the truth. The truth set her free. It is less caring to withhold truth than to speak it. Do you know an addicted person in the church? Speaking the truth is not the enemy, denial is.
2. Don't Speak Until Love is In Place. The kind of love God has for us is decidedly intentional. He chooses to love us even when we don't love Him back. He seeks our best even when we insult Him. You can't always be guaranteed that your words will be received well, but you can ensure that your words are grounded in pure motives and intentions. Think of Jesus' interaction with the rich young man who wanted to know what he had to do to gain eternal life. After suggesting that he follow the commands of the law, Jesus gets down to business and reveals that his issue is his addiction to his wealth. However, the scriptures say "Jesus looked at him and loved him." Whether or not the man loved Jesus in return is immaterial. What is important is that all truth be grounded in true love.
3. Be Ready to Address Addiction In All Its Forms. Drugs and alcohol are the obvious substances that typify addiction, but what about other addictions of the emotional, relational, monetary, sexual, excessive kind? They are just as real in the church. Part of the reason many drug and alcohol abusers won't grace the doors of a church is that they feel unwelcome by people who have as many issues as they do. Is your church a safe place for people to be real and know that they can find help, hope and healing? Does your church selectively judge certain addictions on a different scale than others?
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free! AMEN.