As Evangelicals in the Protestant tradition, we sometimes are puzzled by the many holidays and special Sundays in other denominations. We are quick to recognize Christmas and Palm Sunday and Easter, but you will never find a hard-core Baptist celebrating All Saints Day.
In Southern Baptist life, we especially are minimal in our holiday celebration. At the same time, we have become adept and known for observing special emphases throughout the year, such as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, Anti-Gambling Sunday and Cooperative Program Sundays.
In recent days, another important special Sunday emphasis has come about that is at the crossroads of a spiritual battle among our churches and communities. Sunday, March 19 marks “Substance Abuse Prevention Sunday” in SBC life.
For many people, drug and substance abuse can sometimes feel like a theoretical problem lurking out there that you hope never hits close to home. For others, drug and substance abuse is a living nightmare that, even as I write this, is wreaking havoc on their friends and close family members.
Certainly, drug and substance abuse has proven to be a growing problem in Oklahoma. That is why, in this edition of the Baptist Messenger, we have published an article by renowned author Denise George, who diagnoses the problem and points the way for churches to get involved and to be part of the solution.
Likewise, in a recent Messenger Insight podcast, we interviewed Charles W. Robinson III, an expert in the area of addictions who has written a powerful book called “Loving the Addict in Your Pew” (Visit www.baptistmessenger.com/insight to hear the interview).
The purpose and hope in talking about this issue is not mere awareness. The purpose and greater aim is the church leading the way to Jesus and the redemption and restoration He alone offers.
There is always a temptation to view other people’s sin as a greater evil than our own. There is always a tendency to explain away our own sinful habits and shortcomings, while condemning “the bad people.”
Meanwhile, in Jesus’ perspective, we see that He looks upon people with compassion. He sees us as lost sheep in need of the Good Shepherd’s help (Luke 15:3-7), thanks be to God.
Fortunately in this area of helping people who are addicted to substances, the church is stepping up to the plate. While tools like the 12-step program don’t always point people to the Savior, we have pastors and lay leaders who are walking side-by-side with the struggling.
One successful church-based program is Celebrate Recovery, which started out of Saddleback Church years ago and today helps people with various addictions across the nation and world. Another sterling example is Oklahoma-based Hope Is Alive ministries, led by Lance Lang.
In our efforts to help others, life can become messy quickly. When an addict gets on the right road, they often times revert back to their old way of living. In the process, they breakdown trust that was built up and hurt others in the process.
It would be easy to think that this pattern is true only for addicts, but in many ways, it’s true for all believers. One Christian leader said, while a Christian cannot slip overboard the ark of salvation after rebirth in Christ, we often still slip onboard.
But it is a true joy to know that, even after we stumble, Jesus is there to pick us back up and say, “Rejoice, your sins are forgiven. Now go and sin no more.”