1Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Recently a lady who is married to an abuser (he claims to be a Christian of course) asked me the question in the headline above. Addiction. She was thinking that his abuse – the raging and so on – was an addiction which was the result of being raised in a poor environment. There are drug addicts, alcoholics, etc., so isn’t it possible, she asked, that her husband’s abuse was something he was addicted to?
Now, it is always important that we ask people to define their terms so that we know what we are talking about. Addiction. What did she mean by that term? It’s a common word, but when you start thinking carefully about it – just what does it really mean? What she was thinking was that her husband’s abusive patterns weren’t really his choice. They weren’t something he could help himself with. He was “addicted” to raging and all the rest of the abuse tactics he habitually used. Just as an alcoholic is owned by his addiction to alcohol, so it was with his abuse.
Now, as we think more about this line of logic, we quickly see that it is illogical. It is nonsense. It is apples and oranges. An alcoholic or a heroin addict has chemical things going on in their physical body which demand more alcohol or drugs. There certainly are mental aspects to their addiction as well, but take heroin away from an addict and his or her body is going to evidence some pretty shocking withdrawal things.
None of this is true with the abuser. Sin is not an addiction. The abuser does what he does because he chooses to do it. He knows exactly what he is doing. If he puts the brakes on his raging, for instance, he isn’t going to be punished by any kind of nausea or tremors or sweats or whatever else a drug addict in withdrawal would evidence. There is no addiction – except that he willfully chooses the abuse, craves to do it, and delights in how it feels to cruelly treat his target.
Where does the idea that abuse is an addiction come from? I can tell you. It comes from abusers. Much of the widely held notions about sociopaths and psychopaths and domestic abusers comes from….sociopaths, psychopaths, and domestic abusers! It’s a convenient excuse they use to avoid responsibility for their evil and to dupe their victim into feeling sorry for them.
When we are born again through faith in Christ, we are no longer the person we used to be. Just look at the Scripture quoted above. A drug addict who comes to faith in Christ and is born again is no longer defined in his or her personhood, in their essence, as a drug addict. Will they continue for a time to battle the physical aspects of their addiction? Sure (although sometimes the Lord chooses to take even that away immediately). But the Christian’s flesh, even if that flesh is hooked on alcohol, is not who he now is in Christ. By the Spirit WE (the new creation) put to death the deeds of the flesh (see Galatians 5:16ff).
Sin is not an addiction. It is slavery to the devil, but at the same time the sinner freely chooses to walk in darkness and hate the light of Christ. He sins because he chooses to sin. And he chooses to sin because that is the desire of his fallen heart.