Once a month I travel with a church group down to the inner city to put on a service at a homeless shelter for men. At the end of the service we break into groups and pray with the men. This past Friday I met Hugh, Jim and Trent. This was Hugh’s conversation opener:
Hugh: “You ever smoke crack?”
Me: “Uh, no.”
Hugh: “Well don’t start.”
And those tired eyes and toothless grimace meant it. I already had enough reasons not to try smoking crack, but Hugh’s testimony gave me one more.
Of course from a Christian perspective we’re all addicts to self-destructive behaviors. Some of us choose crack, others choose sex, and still others choose greed or violence or narcissism or a combination thereof. Whatever our chosen addiction, it is still self-destructive and it is still sin.
The challenge is to unmask the horrors of our behaviors before they become too entrenched, engrained, habituated. I often compare the human penchant for sin to the penchant of some dogs for eating feces. (Yes, some dogs eat feces. Go to the pet store and watch the puppies for twenty minutes.) Sin (aka self-destructive behavior) looks attractive in our distorted perspective. The challenge is to help ourselves and others see that it is objectively as disgusting as feces. The road to sanctification, holiness, wholeness or shalom is the road that illumines the feces-like quality of our various self-destructive, sinful addictions.
For that reason I absolutely love the “Montana Meth” commercials. Montana, a notoriously depressed state economically, used to have epidemic rates of meth use. But then the state resolved to show the reality of meth use in R-rated television commercials. Forget eggs frying in a skillet. They’d show the real wages of sin.
The results were astounding. In the first two years of the commercials the use of meth among teens dropped 63% while adult use dropped 73%. If you want to see why, check out “Jessica“, “Kevin” and “Sisters“.