One of the unique features of SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) is it’s sobriety plan. Unlike AA where the boundaries of sobriety are easily demarcated (no drinking), sex apparently has a lot of gray area. As such, each person, along with the help of their sponsor (mentor), defines a sobriety plan unique to the individual.
I knew guys who had sobriety plans which stated they had to remain completely abstinent from pornography. I knew others who thought pornography was OK so long as they did not sleep with prostitutes. Others had a sobriety plan which stated they could not masturbate more than twice in one week. Anything more than that was a “slip” which meant they were no longer sober.
Everyone had a different definition of sobriety based upon their own understanding of themselves and their struggle. A sponsor’s task was to help the sponsee formulate and stick to a plan. Each member of the group supported each person’s individual goals for sobriety and it was considered improper to question the adequacy of the sobriety plan of another.
Looking back, it’s remarkable to me that as a professing Christian and practicing pastor I never thought to question this. I probably even thought it compassionate. Or maybe I thought how wonderfully liberating it is to not have anyone telling me what is best for me! Knowing myself, probably more of the latter.
Jesus no doubt would have been banned from an SAA meeting because he would not have tolerated such “compassion” to one’s self. Nor would he flinch from asserting authority where needed. He would have set the bar much higher than any one of us would set it ourselves and he would demand our pursuit of it. Jesus would say to us today, just as he did then, “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Jesus didn’t call us to be sober. He called us to be holy.
God’s idea of holiness is not subject to change based upon our understanding of ourselves or our personal struggle. God is not impressed with our sobriety plans and how well we uphold them, particularly when they fail to meet His plan for holiness in our lives. Jesus said that anyone who even looks at a woman with the intent to lust has already committed adultery (Matt. 5:28). Thus, pornography (not to mention sleeping around), is not just a “slip” that may or may not jeopardize a sobriety plan but a sin against a holy God. It’s adultery, and God hates it.
Likewise, the man or woman who equivocates about masturbation is bargaining with God. Limiting the occurrence to twice a week (which may be a victory for some) may earn a person a sobriety chip at their next meeting but it is not going to be a sacrifice pleasing to God. God wants our heart- all of it – and a sobriety plan which allows for “just a little sin a few times a week” is a poor path towards God’s will for us, such as…
Be holy, for I am holy (1 Peter 1:16) or,
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3)
God wants more for us than sobriety. God wants us to be holy.
The same is true for the Christian who feels they are not addicted to anything. There is a corollary here between the addict pursuing sobriety and the Christian pursuing God.
In the same way the sex addict gets to choose their sobriety plan we are now part of a Church culture which allows the Christian to dictate their own plan of salvation. Respect for authority is nil. We all have our own ways of “doing church” and “worshiping God” and if anyone tells us we are wrong we will happily find another “group” that will accept us as we are and demand little if nothing of us in return. Pastors in every circle seem to fear man more than God and have long abdicated their sacred calling to disciple people to holiness in favor of catering to congregants felt-needs. We dare not question anyone’s “salvation path” in the same way it is uncouth to question anyone’s sobriety plan.
Pleasing our own self-interests is not a game only addicts play. It happens among the best and the soberest among us.
Jesus said that the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many (Matt. 7:13). The way forward, Jesus says, is through the narrow gate. The road may be hard, but it is worth it. It leads to a life beyond “recovery” and one the Scriptures call “new creation.”
So what should we do? New creation doesn’t happen unless the old one dies. Addict or not, it’s wise to follow Paul’s advice to the Corinthian church and,
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor. 13:5)
Does the power of God reside within you, enabling you to say no to your flesh? Is your heart’s desire to please God and bring Him glory for the sole purpose that He is God? Do you long for holiness in your life? Do you allow others to have an authoritative voice into your life to help squash the tentacles of pride and the deceitfulness of your own heart? Are you walking in the Spirit or in your flesh?
How we answer these questions could reveal a life that is either chasing after sobriety (as an addict or a church-consuming Christian) or one that is chasing after God’s own heart. The former seems to be what the masses are doing and it leads to death. The latter, Jesus said, is a path few will find, but it leads to life.
So what will you choose? Being sober? Or being holy?