Meet Joseph! Joseph has openly struggled with alcohol addiction off and on since he was a teenager. For me to pretend to know what that’s like would be a flat out lie. For me to stand in judgment of him, especially for something I have no experience in, would be wrong. So how do we handle the Joseph’s of the world? We have several choices, but the only choice that will make a difference in any of our lives is to love. When we choose to ignore we are missing out on so much. Joseph and so many others have stories to tell. They have gifts to share. They have a God who loves them more than they could ever imagine.
Isn’t it easy to get caught up in everyone’s idea about how we should treat those with addictions? Maybe a group at work, at church, or a civic group determines that they have made their own choices and at this point they have no value or gift that can be contributed to society. But haven’t we all been in need of grace at some point in our lives? When I came to know Jesus personally, I never heard or got the vibe that he was saying anything to me about not trusting me. He never said, “You are not worthy of my love or sacrifice because I can’t trust you!” It’s not about trusting me, it’s about trusting him. We all fail more than we care to admit. Jesus extended God’s grace to me without question, not because I deserved it, but because he loved me more than any mistake I had ever made.
Be encouraged to extend grace to the people you know that are struggling with addictions. Don’t beat them over the head with their problems. Most likely they are doing that already without our assistance. The gospel of Jesus is all about extending that message of hope, love, mercy, and grace to everyone. It’s the “Good News” of the gospel, not the “legalistic, religious, trample you under my feet news of the gospel”. It is hope for those who ran out years ago. It is love for those who have no one to love them. It’s a new pair of shoes to the one who has none.
But what if? What if I give something to someone like shoes, clothes, food, or money and they turn around and sell it or use it to get the substance or thing they’re addicted to? They very well may and that’s a risk that we all take. But, let’s flip the question around. What if I give something to someone like shoes, clothes, food, or money and they receive hope? Hope that leads them to a promise God has for them that is much greater than they could ever imagine. What if?
What if Joseph uses his new size 15 Nike shoes that our church gave him recently to walk and get alcohol? He very well may do just that. But, what if he uses his new shoes to walk a half mile to church each Sunday and be with people that love him and believe in him? What if the gift sews a seed of hope that grows stronger than the seeds of addiction, stronger than his worst mistake? What if? What if Joseph overcomes and is able to reach others who are struggling with the same thing? The risk we take when we love is high no doubt, but the reward that so many receive from sewing love into someone’s life is so much greater than the risk.