By Beth Livingston
What do you think? Can someone be an addict and a Christian?
I believe the answer is yes. I’ll tell you a true story that happened in my past.
The year was 1997. I had been on a roller-coaster ride with relationships, alcohol and drugs for years and had had enough of the high life. One night, in a drunken stupor, I left the bar and walked to the cemetery where my mother is buried. I laid on top of her grave and cried out to God that I was tired of this life; that I had made a big mess of things and that I didn’t want to live that way anymore. The next Sunday, I went to my childhood church and rededicated my life to Christ. On the day I made that decision, I was an alcoholic who smoked cigarettes and pot. I had responded to the Holy Spirit’s beckoning to come “Just as I am,” and believed that Christ forgave me for my waywardness and would help me find the new life he wanted me to have. God was kind and took away alcohol almost immediately, with little effort on my part. I think he honored my desire to surrender to Him by freeing me from over 25 years of drinking. He blessed me with that gift.
With my joy-filled spirit, days later I was sitting at my cousin/marijuana dealer’s home telling him how our grandmothers had been right about Jesus and that he should come on back to church with me. One of his friends was there who said, “How can you be buying a bag of herb and spouting off about how great Jesus is at the same time?”
Maybe you are wondering the same thing. It does sound a bit hypocritical. But, this is how I responded because this is how I truly felt in my heart:
“All I know is that I’ve found hope and I am happy. I know that it might seem to you like I shouldn’t be saying anything good about Jesus while I’m buying pot. But, if I keep quiet about what Jesus is doing in my life, just because I’m still smoking pot – then I’m allowing the devil to shut me up. I’m not going to let that happen. I know that my life is changing and I know that it’s because of Jesus! The people at church are glad that I am coming there. They're not judging me. I think it would be good for all of us.”
I can’t tell you how glad I am that my response was pure and sincere. I wonder if every Christian thinks I was right to say that. That’s how I felt! Thank God! Now that I’ve got years of sobriety from all substances and a closer walk with Jesus than I ever felt possible, I wish the moment was on tape. It was pivotal for me.
It’s disappointing to know that some people might be reading this and think that I wasn’t a Christian until I was clean of all my addictions. I look at it this way: Let’s say I am a Christian woman who gossips on the phone from time-to-time with my best friend or my sister. Does that mean I’m not a Christian? I know gossiping is a sin. Is gossip a lighter sin than drinking or smoking pot? There are many examples and varying “degrees” of sinful behavior. Who are we to judge? Only God knows our hearts. Only God is holy and worthy of judging any of us.
I’m no Bible scholar, but I believe it was the holier-than-thou attitudes of the Pharisees that Jesus couldn’t stand. Let’s not join in the judgmental crowd of believers and non-believers
who are quick to condemn an addict but will overlook the sins they feel are not so bad. Romans 3:23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.”