Probably 25 years ago, I heard a number of Christians speaking badly about Alcoholics Anonymous. And for a while I bought into that negativity. Over time I began to meet many people who had benefited so greatly from it. And my mind began to change. I think many churches were creating a need for AA by not knowing how to deal with people struggling with addiction. Ministers and other Christians would simply (naively if not coldly) tell people to “just stop it.” They told people, “If you’re a Christian then you are free from the power of sin so it should be easy for you through the power of the Spirit to just stop it.”
Many found out it didn’t always work that way. That kind of “counseling” led so many people into deep spiritual depression. They would think, “Well, I must not really be a Christian because I can’t seem to stop this. And if they are right, that I should be able to just simply ‘say no’ or ‘just stop it’ by the power of the Spirit, I must not have the Spirit in me.” Many Christian people were in despair. AA was meeting a need where the church was letting people down.
Jesus created His body the church to be a community of people who struggle in different ways so that we can help one another in our various areas of weakness. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” That is not about being healed ONLY from a sickness where you are not feeling well. It is about healing in any area of weakness in our being. James says we are to confess sins so that we can pray for one another. This agrees with what Paul said in Galatians 6:2 “bear one another’s burdens.”
In a book our men’s discipleship group is going through, the writer said this and I thought he was right on target: “Members of such groups (like AA) always stand ready to go to a sister or brother who is weakening under the assault of the temptation to succumb to brokenness. They will stay with them, encourage them, support them and see them through until they win the victory consistently. This is a vital essential of holistic spirituality that the church has lost.”
Listen, this is not a devotional about the greatness of AA or other 12 step programs. They do have some significant weaknesses. But, they sure do a great job of walking through the mess of addiction with people in a way the church was designed to do. We need to take our own advice – the “Just stop it” advice. We need to just stop telling people to just stop it! Pray for them. Talk with them. Walk with them through this warfare in their souls. Help them to reach the point of where God has given them victory over what is plaguing them. And yes I do realize that some of what is plaguing them is due to choices they’ve made. I get that. Many of them get that. God works on healing them and us through His Spirit within and through a community of believers around all of us.