Maybe my Abuser is an addict – isn’t sin an addiction?

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.

We Must Understand the Nature of Sin if we are to Properly Deal with it in the Church

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2Th 3:10-15)

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1Cor 5:11-13)

One of the most prevalent errors in the church today, one which is causing much grief to the victims of the wicked and bringing shame to Christ’s name, is the persistence of local churches, church leaders and pastors to regard all members of the church as Christians, no matter what the nature of their sin.   This is not biblical thinking. It is not truth. God’s Word plainly teaches us that not all sinners are of the same type, nor are they to be dealt with in the same manner.
Let’s consider the two examples given in the Scriptures above: 1) The sluggard, and 2) The reviler (to select one from Paul’s list).

What does Paul tell us about dealing with the sluggard? He commands the sluggard directly, first of all, to get to work. He tells us not to bail the sluggard out of the consequences of his sin — if he won’t work, neither let him eat. And if the sluggard will not take these admonishments to heart and repent, the strong measure of the church having nothing to do with him is to be taken, in order to shame him into repentance.

But then, Paul says something quite curious: “Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” Here is a person, a person committing a serious sin, who is still to be considered a brother in Christ. Perhaps we should also take note of the context of the situation at Thessalonica. There seems to have been an “end-times” theological distortion going on there and perhaps this was the reason you had these people there who were not working but rather sitting around waiting for Christ to return. But Paul says to regard such a person as a Christian, at least at that point.

Now, when we come to the second category of sinner, the one identified in Paul’s list in 1 Cor 5 as a “reviler” (a person who uses his mouth to attack, to condemn, to malign, to abuse), Paul’s prescription for dealing with him is different. The remedy, you see, must fit the crime. Once more we are to put that person out of the church, but Paul uses harsher terms: “Purge the evil person from among you.” Paul does not regard the reviler (or idolater or swindler or the rest of his list) as a Christian, and neither are we to do so.

Abusers are revilers. They hurt and murder with their words. Not because they lose their temper on occasion and end up saying something they later regret. No, the abuser is calculated. He reviles in cold blood. And he habitually does it because a reviler reviles.  This kind of sinner is to be put out of the church, and regarded as an unbeliever. He is not a brother in the Lord.

In failing (refusing?) to make this distinction that is plainly set forth for us in God’s Word, local churches today are giving sanctuary to the wicked, providing them with false assurance of the state of their soul, and permitting them to continue to revile and assault the innocent. For such willful disobedience, all will one day give account to the Lord of the Church.

**An Exercise: If you look at the introductory comments (from the editor) to the Epistle of Jude in the ESV Bible you should be able to see a statement in it that is a distortion of what Jude says about the wicked ones who have crept into the church, and how we are to deal with them. Do you see the error? If you spot it, let us know in the comments here.

Don’t Waste Your Time Counseling Esau

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things — things that belong to salvation. (Hebrews 6:1-9)

For you know that afterward, when he [Esau] desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:17)

It is my conviction that many pastors, counselors, churches and Christian ministries are wasting a lot of time. I know that in my nearly 40 years as a pastor I have too often done the same thing. We have wasted resources, which are really the Lord’s resources of which we are stewards. Time. Energy. Prayers. Money. Teaching. All for naught. The ones we were laboring to help, to save, to rescue — wouldn’t have it in the end. As I look back, I can see very clearly that there were many times that I should have shaken the dust off my shoes and moved on. Increasingly this is what I do now. And so do our elders and our church members.

Notice the Scriptures above very, very carefully. Let me try to explain what I believe they mean.

When we first encounter a person who is lost in their sin, what do we do? We present them with the “elementary doctrine of Christ.”  We lay this foundation for them — the gospel. We call them to repentance from their dead, so-called “good works” and exhort them to turn to Christ in faith. We give them the ABC’s of the New Covenant: baptism, spiritual gifts and the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer, the certain hope of the resurrection, and the promise of eternal judgment.

Now, as we do this and the person responds, they are (as Hebrews puts it) being enlightened by the Holy Spirit to the truth and reality of these things.  They are “tasting” the heavenly gift and the goodness of the Word of God. They have even shared in the Holy Spirit in the sense that it is the Spirit who is showing them intimately the very “taste” of these gospel truths. The seed is sown and it has sprung up. But. . .

Some, and we could probably say “most,” fall away. They go back to the world when following Christ begins to cost them something. Like a field that was blessed with abundant rain and good seed, they only bring forth a crop of thorns and thistles. The Apostle says that he hopes for better things from these professing Christians he is writing to, but nevertheless they must take care. They must see and heed the danger of becoming an Esau, for whom repentance was impossible. In Christian theology, we call these people reprobates.

Notice once again back at the beginning of the passage cited above. The Apostle is telling us — sit up and listen carefully now — he is telling us to stop doing a spiritual re-boot when dealing with people who have heard the gospel clearly, who have appeared to respond in faith and repentance, who have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit so that they know full well the gospel is true, and yet who then return to or continue in their wickedness and love for the world. Stop it, he says. You’ve already laid a foundation for that person. Don’t go back and lay it again because you can’t.

These kinds of people — people who perhaps have professed to be Christians for many years or maybe they even grew up in the church, went forward to profess Christ at an altar call, received baptism, and all the rest. . . these kinds of people who demonstrate by the evil fruit of their lives that they are only going to yield thorns and thistles (signs of the curse). . . are not to be permitted to sap our time and resources and energy. They are a waste of time. They are not going to change. They crucify Jesus Christ all over again and hold him up as it were on a cross to be mocked by the world. Walk away! Walk away from these people. See it? The Apostle, speaking God’s own Word here, is instructing us to move on and quit trying “to save” this kind.

This is why I am simply not interested in counseling abusers. Particularly abusers who use Christ as their chosen facade. Abusers who profess Jesus, who attend church, who know all their Bible verses and preach to others — abusers who have tasted the goodness of God, you see, but who only in reality bear a cursed crop of thorns. An abundant harvest of cruelty, abusive tactics, and wicked deception.

When it comes to the kind of abuser that most of us here at Unholy Charade come across, God’s Word tells us — don’t waste your time. Give me a totally pagan man who makes no claim at all to belong to Christ. There is a man we can expend some time on laying the foundation of the gospel for him. But those who have heard, those who have tasted, those who know full well the Word of God is true — walk away. Or better, send HIM away!  Your energies will be much better used being poured into the victim.

Oh, and by the way. Don’t feel sorry for Esau as he sheds those crocodile tears. He isn’t crying because he really wants Christ, but Christ won’t have him. Nope. He is crying because he wanted the inheritance back that he squandered away for a bowl of Quaker oats. As with all abusers, his tears are selfish and have nothing to do with repentance.