Monday, October 26, 2009

Hand Up or Handout?

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. -James 1:27

I recently brought up my involvement in an addiction recovery ministry. I thank all of you for your encouraging comments. Truth is, I wouldn't be involved in that ministry if I didn't need it myself. Besides my character, I have learned much about the human condition and those things that drive us to our drugs of choice. I've also learned that in order to overcome our addictions and surrender our will to God, we need to "hit bottom". This means we've reached our lowest point and that realization motivates us to change. Recovery "raises" that bottom, so our motivation for sobriety moves from being afraid of the worst that could happen to desiring the best that God has in store for us. The temptation for many is to prevent a loved one from reaching their bottom. We don't want to see them suffer. We want to save them. But suffering is exactly what they need to find the desire for recovery.

This creates a paradox to the Christian. There is no sin so horrible that God can't forgive. "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear" (Isaiah 59:1) And we are commanded to "forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13b) Likewise we are commanded to "carry each other's burdens" because "in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2)

It's easy to forgive an addict without enabling him. But where do you draw the line when carrying his burdens? On one hand, he needs to suffer the consequences of his decisions. But that does not mean we cannot help. Picking him up from the bar at 2:00 AM because he can't drive home is not carrying his burdens. But "sponsoring" him at a meeting is.

With addiction, that line is more clear than when dealing with other sins. What about a single teenage mother? Is offering to babysit while she searches for a job enabling, or sharing her burden? This is something my wife and I are currently battling. There are a couple of single moms that we've been reaching out to and opening our home to. When we bring them to church, the stares we get say, "why would you help her? It's her fault she's in the situation she's in." Are we preventing them from hitting their bottom? I'd like to think instead we're offering a safe environment in which they can work out their issues. Much like a recovery meeting.

Sadly, this perspective doesn't seem to be shared. To some, we are offering a handout instead of a hand up. I am moved to pray the lyrics to Brandon Heath's song, Give Me Your Eyes,

"All those people going somewhere,
Why have I never cared?

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see"

I can then follow up with Leeland and Brandon Heath's Follow You,

"Faith without works is dead
On the cross your blood was shed
So how could we not give it away so freely?"

I only pray others may see the world in the same way.

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