This week was educational for me. It has been clearly demonstrated to me that addiction is not only, even not primarily, a matter of substance-use; it is a matter of people-use. To paraphase a trite old popular song, “People. People who use people… are the unhappiest people….in the world.”
I have witnessed deception by and use of others up close and personally by two people. Although they each have been professing a growing faith in Christ, there is an area of their lives which they have been unwilling to submit to Christ’s authority -that of relationships. After several admonishments to both about the rules about relationships while in recovery and the need to be honest with and accountable to a sponsor, one was caught being dishonest again. When questioned about what was occurring, it was acknowledged that one relationship was used to secure financial desires and another one to indulge emotional desires, stringing both people along simultaneously. When I pointed out how these people were being used, an excuse about having security fears was offered.
The other individual had similarly been advised to end an unhealthy infatuation.In other areas of life there was evidence of growth and apparent enjoyment of the fruit of discipleship. Although words and behavior after correction suggested repentance and compliance with counseling recommendations, it was later discovered that the disobedience and continuation of the relationship had simply gone “underground”. When confronted with the discovery of the deception a few weeks later the individual fled rather than face the lies and irresponsibility, sadly hurting a lot of people in the process. When confronted with the disconnect evidenced by pursuit of God’s will in some areas of life and blatant disregard for his will in the area of relationships the reply was, “I don’t see what one has to do with the other.” I pointed out the lack of integrity evident in saying that one wishes to be obedient in some areas – like career, devotional life, or parenting- and being totally unwilling to be obedient and honest about relationships.
While the latter’s pridefulness, stubborness, and lack of repentance was clear, the former’s response was not as clear.
As I reflected on interactions with these two people, it suddenly occurred to me the divine wisdom in Christ himself choosing a meager life of material denial to eliminate the possibility that those following him might do so for what they might get from him materially instead of for who he was. Even his decision not to heal every person in Galilee in need of healing was a measured choice to,in part, prevent himself and his Father’s beneficience and that of those who would follow his ministry example from being used, it seems to me, by the unscrupulous who would seek to use him for their own purposes. I am reminded of Simon the charleton who sought to gain possession of the apostle’s handkerchief in order that he might possess the power of the Holy Spirit through it to agrandize and enrich himself.
As Christians we are to be wise like a serpent and gentle like a dove. There is an extent to which we do allow ourselves to be used. But there are boundaries that we need to put in place, too, that prevent people-users from being enabled to continue their unrepentant and often deceptive using of other people. If they can successfully use Christians because they believe we are “soft touches” or that we are too naive to recognize that we’re being had, then we have aided and abetted their behavior and failed to hold them accountable.
True, Christ said that if one asks for your cloak, give him your shirt, as well. And if asked to go one mile, go two. Yes, we are to give to and serve those who are truly in need. But habitual people-users are not to be continually indulged and enabled.
Unless one can be influenced by the work of the Holy Spirit in her life to move from a pattern of people-using (out of selfish greed or fearful insecurity) to a pattern of people-serving (out of love and obedience to God), she will not develop the integrity and character to live a life of Christian freedom and joy. People-using reflects a lack of trust in God for his provision of our needs and it demonstrates a lack of understanding about how the body of Christ works. As we are loving and serving others, God is placing others in our midst to love and serve us, as well. We don’t have to grasp and strive to get our own needs met. We simply have to receive Christ, begin living in fellowship with similarly minded believers, serving others in his name, and our needs begin to be met by others doing the same thing, all out of love for and obedience to God.