Voices from the community: God’s call to welcome and embrace drug addicts | Community voice
Drug addiction kills people like you and me: other bearers of images of God who are moms, dads, uncles, aunts, daughters and sons. From February 2018 to February 2019 alone, 69,000 people died from drug overdoses. This problem worsened considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic. Months of isolation have left people without support. In March 2020, the number of drug-related deaths increased by 18%. In April, by 29% and by May 2020, a staggering 42%.
In a recent chat with Louie Wright, co-founder and CEO of One Door Recovery, a faith-based medical detox program in Bakersfield, Louie wondered if the church would have been willing to accept those who have died. during the pandemic, if they had found them on a bench before succumbing to addiction. The question is legitimate given the perspective of some Christians on issues such as drug addiction. An attitude that whispers, “Why can’t they just stop using?” Is not uncommon.
Perhaps a more important question is: What would Jesus say about a perspective that seems antithetical to the fundamental tenets of the faith? It is clear from the scriptures that Jesus himself was sinless, yet He served and healed with an abundance of compassion. Eventually he went to the cross and died for sins he never committed.
As Christians we serve a God who is well aware of the messy sins we often shield our eyes from and asks us to love anyway. Louie implores us to do the same, especially for the brothers and sisters who come into our churches looking as bad as they feel. “These are people who desperately need an ecclesial community,” he said. “These are people who are dying. What if each of these people showed up at our church? Will we know how to love them as they need to be loved? Can we see them as God sees them?
One Door clients are often hesitant about encouraging the program to a faith community, pointing to cases of rejection because of their appearance. Even more common is a sense of unworthiness that keeps them from entering a church full of “perfect people.”
Community, transparency and education in the church
The idea that there are injured people who are hesitant or afraid to walk through the doors of the church should greatly alarm us.
At Canyon Hills Assembly of God, One Door’s partner church, welcoming and caring for the broken is part of the church’s DNA. The pulpit message is a message of acceptance without the expectation of “good Christian behavior” first. The mission is to love well and to allow the Holy Spirit to effect the transformation in the individual. This class of church leaders is found across the country.
This transparent mission put forth by church leaders is essential if God’s people hope to have an impact on drug addicts. The tremendous impact of substance abuse on issues of foster care, poverty, homelessness, exploitation, mental health and imprisonment is perhaps deeper. The fewer adult drug addicts there are, the more children there are who remain with their families of origin, the safer the households and the more stable our communities. One of the goals of CityServe is to understand and focus on these often related issues that plague our communities. The Addicted is one of CityServe’s 10 initiatives – models of compassion covered in the scriptures for how the church can engage and help those who are suffering.
Isaiah 61: 1 states, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He sent me to comfort the broken hearts and proclaim that the captives will be released and the prisoners will be released.
As Christians, we know that the experience of the Lord’s love and goodness is what leads to repentance. So what is it that keeps us from showing kindness and sharing a rich community with everyone who walks through our doors?
Often the answer is a lack of understanding. Most Christians are sincere in their desire to love well, but if we have never experienced or been exposed to addiction in our families, naivety can impact our understanding. We wonder why people can’t ‘just stop? This question reveals a false perception, not just insensitivity. To eliminate the stigma on this issue, education and training are essential. Learning how to better serve those struggling with addiction from someone who has been directly addicted is essential to a well-executed care plan.
How does your church share God’s love with the messy and imperfect? How will your church be part of the solution?
Crissy Sanchez-Cochran is Executive Director of Communications for CityServe.