he church is a place for the weary, the broken, and the hurting…but is it a place for those in recovery?
Sadly, the church has often rejected and condemned people who profess to know Christ but are dealing with some form of addiction or compulsion.
We in the Church of God know Galatians 5:19-23 says Christians will bear the fruit of the Spirit and not the works of the flesh. We believe in the sanctification and wholeness offered in the redemptive work of Jesus. We have seen miraculous conversions, healings, and deliverances. However, we who have witnessed such miracles have sometimes looked down our religious noses and doubted the salvation of believers who struggle with an addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral issue resulting from something horrific in their life.
While 1 John 2:1 says we should “not sin,” the writer adds, “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (NIV).
Why does the church have reservations about those who come into the congregation from a life that most of us have never lived? Is it lack of knowledge or understanding? Is it that we have kept our secrets hidden so we will not be rejected or judged by others?
From talking with many people inside and outside the church, I hear the same misconception—the church is a place for perfect people. The church is not seen as the place for individuals who need ongoing support. Has the church so often shot its wounded that even secular society has come to understand the church is only for those who don’t need healing and deliverance?
During the last decade or so, the church as a whole has begun realizing we have been remiss in dealing with churchgoers struggling with issues from their past life. What can we as individual Christians do to help those who love Jesus and are truly repentant, but are struggling with issues from their past life?
Jesus accepted you as you were, so don’t make yourself greater than Jesus by rejecting someone who does not live up to your convictions or beliefs.
Sometimes when trying to help someone, it is easy to say things that actually help keep him or her in a vicious cycle of repeating and repenting, falling down and getting up, with nothing of substance being communicated to help break the cycle. Do not condone the wrong.
Some churches continue to reject anything to do with psychotherapy or counseling outside the church walls. While sin is often the person’s problem, sometimes it is not. In some situations, a medical or mental issue is affecting a person, and professional help outside of the pastor or church counselor’s office is needed.
There are good programs a local church can use to help bring healing to those who are struggling. One ministry—“Celebrate Recovery”—is active in 20,000 churches to help individuals with “hurts, hang-ups, and habits.” Talk with your pastor about what your church can do. Consult medical and mental-health workers in your congregation. Learn from another church’s effective recovery ministry.
We who are in the body of Christ must not expect perfection from those who profess Jesus and then “shoot our wounded” when they fall and cry out for help. Instead, let us embrace them with the love of Jesus, help them bear their burden, and carry them (if need be) back to the throne of grace.