By: Tina Cook
There’s a quote I heard that resounded in me: “Religion is for those who don’t want to go to hell; spirituality is for those who have already been there.” I dug a bit deeper and learned the following: In the dictionary, religion is described as an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to the supernatural, and to spirituality. Spirituality is defined as that which is set apart from the ordinary and worthy of admiration.
According to the dictionary definition of religion, addiction is to be looked upon as shameful, sinful, and encompassing those who lack self-control. In my opinion, this helps more sanctimonious people feel better about themselves by placing sin safely within categories, levels, degrees of, and ranks. One could easily feel superior as simply a prescription taker and a secret adulterer when compared to a strung-out addict and a known prostitute. Someone could hide behind words of condemnation blasted loud and long about how those sinful folks are going to hell for their apparent sin. They could spout scripture and verses to support all their rantings, even spread gossip galore to keep focus on the shameful life of those people and off the sin of self. And, why not, since most people do a form of it every single day? One would just be part of the organized collection in the cultural system by doing so.
But, that is not the road Jesus calls His followers to walk, because it is not the road He walked. He calls us to walk along the road of spirituality, not religion. He did not condemn those whose sins were obvious to all or whose lives were filled with outward shame. He offered them grace, mercy, and a way out! The Bible tells us over and over that we are to be like Jesus, and Jesus Himself was set apart from the worldly views of religious folks. The story of the tax man and the Pharisee found in Luke 18:9-14 assures us that the humble will be made right with God, not the proud. James 2:10-13 states that if anyone is guilty of even one sin, he is guilty period. That is why we are instructed to be merciful, because we will ALL be judged by the measure of mercy we have shown to others.
As a practicing addict, I did shameful and sinful things that make me cringe at times when I think of them. I have succumbed to desires seemingly greater than my ability to withstand. The same is true for me as a young girl before drugs ever entered my body, as well as since 2011 as I have been a recovering addict living for Christ. And, so I shall always fall short. Therefore, I will continue to walk the path of humble spirituality as Jesus commanded, not the road of religion as others may choose. I am thankful that I walked the hellish road of addiction so that I can view the world as shameful and sinful instead of judging people that way; that I know true strength is not found in holding on but rather in letting go. We are all in need of a graceful, merciful Savior because by default we all sin. In 2 Corinthians12:10, it states plainly: “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Though this passage focuses on the sufferings endured as a result of living for Christ, it makes clear that weaknesses develop humility, which is key to embracing the true strength needed to face the troubles of this world. Perhaps this paramount truth is best phrased by John the Baptist: “He must become greater…I must become less.” (John 3:30)
By: Tina Cook